ELEVATING EXPERIENCES

ASPEN ARCHITECTS STAY TRUE TO THE PAST, RELEVANT TO THE FUTURE

Sarah Broughton and John Rowland have a reputation to uphold. Principals and founding partners of Aspenbased Rowland+Broughton Architecture, the husband-and-wife team is constantly striving to maintain, and often restore, the architectural integrity of the highprofile mountain town they call home.

“It’s all about environmental stewardship,” says Broughton. “We live here, work here, and play here. We want to preserve the authenticity and history that makes up the fabric of Aspen and create special architectural places that help keep its tradition alive.”

Above all, understanding the story behind a project informs the path that needs to be taken. Does the structure play a significant role in the history of the town, and is it important that it does so for another hundred years? Once that’s established, designs address what Broughton refers to as the “bones” and “lines” of the architecture, and what can be preserved and improved upon in relation to its surrounding environment.

An ambitious task one might think, but all it takes is a few days in the little mountain town with a big reputation to realize just how far R+B has come in their efforts over the dozen years since opening its studio. High-profile Aspen hotels—The Little Nell, Hotel Jerome, and the Limelight—have been crafted in part by R+B, along with iconic Aspen stops such as White House Tavern, Ajax Tavern, element 47, and Justice Snow’s.

A number of homes at Snowmass and on the flanks of Aspen’s Red Mountain bear the Rowland+Broughton signature. The firm’s growing reputation has led to projects beyond, to ski areas such as Vail, Steamboat, Durango, Breckenridge, Park City, and Sun Valley.

For every R+B project, new construction or remodel—modern or historic—the concept and design might be entirely different, but the goal is the same. “Our philosophy is to provide thoughtful, timeless design,” says Broughton. “We approach each project with an understanding of how it fits in with its environment as well as how someone is going to live in it or experience it.”

“Good design principles apply to whatever style you’re designing,” adds Rowland. “Part of the initial design process is to really understand the context.”

“A SENSE OF SCALE AND ENTRY IS SO IMPORTANT.” —JOHN ROWLAND

The 6,800-square-foot home showcased on these pages is the perfect example. Set along a high ridge on McLain Flats outside the town of Aspen, the traditional, lodge-style house had been purchased as a teardown by out-of-state owners. Rowland and Broughton had other ideas.

“The house was built in 1969,” Broughton says. “It wasn’t (designated) historic, but it had amazing essential elements, like iconic roof beacons, that spoke to Aspen’s culture and legacy. We wanted to restore its character, to contemporize it, and add value to the structure.” Utilizing the existing footprint and focusing on the panoramic views, a complete overhaul ensued: architecture, interior design—the works. “We were able to realize our vision all the way through,” says Rowland. “We love that scope of work.”

Since their days at architectural school (the couple met in their first design studio at the University of Colorado, Boulder), Rowland and Broughton have shared an interest in the betterment of mountain communities. Each has volunteered time—Rowland as a local planning commissioner and Broughton as chair of Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission. Those experiences led to an appreciation of how Aspen evolved, from the days of its native habitants, to its time as a silver mining mecca, to its modern incarnation as a world-class ski resort. Preserving and carrying on its various legacies became paramount. “It’s all about layering and telling the story of what came before and respecting that,” says Broughton. “That way, we can continue to make a place authentic, true to the past, and relevant to the future. It’s important here and in other mountain towns as well.”

In terms of R+B’s signature design, the team’s travels—particularly to international ski towns such as Zermatt, Lech, and Chamonix—have influenced its work.

“A sense of scale and entry is so important,” says Rowland. “For some reason, people in America say, ‘Oh, I can’t have anything lower than a 10-foot ceiling.’ Not every room has to have the same ceiling height, or be large just for the sake of it. In Europe, there’s a sense of arrival and compression and release.

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