Andesite Ridge Retreat by

The 2.5-acre, forested site sits on a rocky promontory overlooking Montana’s Gallatin Range – a visually spectacular glacially-carved landscape that lies within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Enticed by the environment’s dynamic of extremes, the owners embarked on the creation a family retreat, one that married a contemporary mountain home composed of natural materials with an environment carved by wind, fire, and the erosive power of flowing water and ice.

A modernist vision of simplicity, volume, and natural materials, the landscape architecture of Andesite Ridge Retreat employs a creative combination of engineering, technology, and artistry to capture and manage on-site stormwater in a manner that responds to challenging site conditions while acting as an experiential art installation, one that celebrates the imposing infinite boundaries of the sublime.

The design—an artful composition of bold geometries and textures—calls attention to a dramatic and ecologically-rich environment through a series of restrained linear interventions that extend the visual and functional relationships of the home into the landscape, while simultaneously dissolving the barrier between designed space and natural environment. This approach, when synthesized with strategic site planning decisions, proper forest management, and vigorous construction management practices, results in a home and garden, crisply executed through a nocturnal palette of stone, steel, and wood, that disappears into the surrounding forest, successfully protecting the site’s visual character, and reinforces the client’s environmental values.

Refuge and Prospect – Because the surrounding landscape is so dominant, the garden is limited to two distinct linear vignettes that extend both the visual and physical functions of the home. From the entry, a horizontal walkway and vertical wall create a procession that features sculpture, designed by the client. The walk—composed of cut pavers and loosely cracked native rock—includes an organized grid of aspen, an organic addition that infuses seasonal color, texture, and shade. The result is a design that delineates cultivated and restored spaces.

By comparison, the second garden is conceived as an abstract reference to the geologic scree fields and theater-like skies. Emerging as a small spring, water spirits its way from the front entry at the high point of the building, flowing downward in a stream of broken rock fragments. Beneath a suspended glass bridge linking the public and private areas of the home, craggy boulders appear intermittently, their organic jagged forms rising in contrast to the architecturally crisp, stone walls. A central feature of the home’s main living areas, the stream offers both a visual and audible spectacle – a constant reminder of the extraordinary surrounding natural environment.
As the stream approaches the lower level of the home, water diffuses across an undulating stone delta, slipping beneath a bridge of floating stones, and collecting in a still pool that terminates on a firepit. In a feat of engineering that abstracts and exaggerates the ephemeral nature of montane streams and lakes, the landscape architect utilized modern technology to create an experiential art installation that transforms a dry stream bed into a glassy plane of water (and all variations in between) over a 30-minute period.

Environmental Sensitivity and Sustainability – The garden reinforces the owner’s commitment to protecting and enhancing the natural beauty of the site. Sustainable design elements include:

  • – Water Efficiency and Native Plantings: A rainwater collection system captures snowmelt and rainfall from the roof and autocourt to support the stream. When not in use, water is emptied into an underground cistern and utilized for irrigation. The planting design responds to the harsh growing conditions of the high-alpine site. Indigenous native grasses and wildflowers surround the home, requiring small amounts of irrigation only until establishment.
  • – Site Disturbance – Multiple measures taken during construction reduced impact to the slow-growing lodgepole forest. The landscape architect assisted in the development of a construction management plan, which aligned areas needed for construction staging to occur in areas of proposed improvements. During most of the construction period, a direct road offered a means of temporary access. The design intentionally called for a delay of construction of the final driveway to reduce the risk of over-use and damage.
  • – Forest Management – The existing forest was a monoculture, a result of decades of neglect. Deadfall, typically removed when the project is complete, was removed at the beginning of the construction process, a preemptive measure specified by the landscape architect to enable sunlight to penetrate the tree canopy, encouraging a rich diversity of native plantings to emerge in tandem with the completion of the home and garden.


Architecture offices involved in the design: Pearson Design Group

Project location: Montana, USA

Design year: 2015

Year Built: 2020


Entrant name:
Award category: Private Gardens Private Gardens

Location: Montana USA


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