Nestled in a canyon above Salt Lake City, Utah, "Wabi-Sabi" is a home that embraces an all-round connection with nature. Designed by Sparano + Mooney Architecture, the home reflects the studio’s commitment to realizing sustainable and innovative buildings set within unique landscapes.
A quintessentially Japanese aesthetic, wabi-sabi is described as “a beauty of things impermanent, imperfect, and incomplete, . . . of things modest and humble . . . of things unconventional” (Koren, 2008). Wabi-sabi eschews any decoration that is not essential; it prizes neutrality and restraint, leaving room for self-expression. Centered in the present, it is concerned with natural materials, warmth, earthiness, and simplicity. The Wabi-Sabi residence “celebrates a unique elevated canyon view with a rare and direct connection to nature,” explains Sparano + Mooney Architecture. “The design was conceived as an expression of both static and dynamic elements, referencing the relationships among the mountain, vegetation, and wildlife found on the site.” Exposed to nature and the elements, the Wabi-Sabi residence will convey a sense of beauty as it weathers with age.
Sparano + Mooney Architecture designed this 4,000-square-feet (372-square-meter) home in the form of two cantilevered volumes. Oriented along an east-west axis, the north volume enjoys mountain views and includes the home’s private spaces. The southwest volume benefits from dramatic views of both natural and urban landscapes, and includes the home’s communal spaces.
The cantilevered volumes are clad with blackened vertical cedar boards. “The overall height of the volumes was established based on the standard length of FSC-certified Western Red Cedar Select,” says the architect. This approach reduced the need for cutting and helped to minimize construction waste. Moreover, the architect explains that “the large-format tile finish was established in a stack bond pattern that extends the full width of the corridors and patio, therefore maximizing coverage.” The home’s interior elements, fixtures, and furnishings continue the modest material palette.
The Wabi-Sabi residence includes a number of sustainable features, several of which are outlined by the architect: “The window system was designed with operable openings at key locations to take advantage of natural site ventilation, thereby reducing the need for mechanical heating/cooling, and increasing indoor air quality. The vegetated roof is planted with local grasses, camouflaging the home in its context, and the site is augmented with native and drought-tolerant plants and trees.” Passive principles aid the home’s performance, helping to minimize its energy usage and maximize its site position. The gradient of the cantilevered volumes is integrated with the topography, in an effort to have the least possible impact on existing storm run-off.
The architecture’s geometric nature was “inspired by bold, minimal forms,” says the architect. The emphasis is very much on ensuring this Wabi-Sabi residence keeps as low a profile as possible and that in time, “[it will] become integrated with the wild landscape.”
Koren, L. (2008) Wabi-sabi for artists, designers, Poets & Philosophers. Point Reyes, Calif: Imperfect Publ.