House for a Musher

Location: Big Lake, Alaska
Year: 2010
Awards: AIA Alaska Honor  Award 2010,  AIA NorthWest + Pacific Honor Award 2011
Client: Martin Buser and Kathy Chapoton
Petra Sattler-Smith, Klaus Mayer

House for a musher is situated on a 20 acre plot surrounded by small lakes and meadows at the edge of untouched interior Alaskan wilderness. The site is on a moraine, a remnant of a glacial landscape. The highest peak in North America, Mt. McKinley, dominates the view to the north.

The client is a professional dog musher, a four-time champion of the Iditarod, a 1,161 mile sled dog race. The family of four desired a “not so big house” and a view of “the” mountain from every room.

The design for the house is organized in an L-shape with a common space centered on the view toward the Alaska mountain range with Mt. McKinley as a focal point. Carefully selected locations for wall openings frame specific views. The bedroom wing extends to the west.

The 2,450 sf house is complimented by a large outdoor court-yard and an accessible roof terrace. The courtyard provides relief from the overwhelmingly expansive natural setting, creating a wind sheltered space with sounds of trickling water and the warmth of fire.

The roof terrace offers uninterrupted views of the spectacular landscape and frequent displays of the northern hemisphere Aurora Borealis at night. The owner mostly built the house by himself. The materiality of the house is simple and durable: local Alaskan yellow cedar cladding, a very durable and aromatic wood, lines the interior of the main volume in the house. Charred wood siding for the exterior cladding was used for several reasons: a long lasting, traditional low maintenance finish and as reference to wildfires that happen frequently in the area. Some consideration for sustainable design include a heat recovery ventilation system, triple pane glazing and a double furring wall system for the exterior shell.