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Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort

Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort

SB Architects
Calistoga, United States
Mariko Reed

Luxury Resort Lives in Harmony with the Site

SB Architects as Architects

Tucked into a hidden canyon just off the Silverado Trail in California’s Napa Valley, the site for Calistoga Ranch has provided a unique opportunity to create a private luxury resort on one of the last available parcels in the Napa Valley. The primary goal of this unique resort is to provide a "bungalow in the woods" experience that combines luxury accommodations and sophisticated design with an intimate, authentic connection to the natural surroundings, making the site itself the resort's most important amenity. Set upon 157 heavily-wooded acres, the resort structures are clustered on 23 central acres, with the remainder left undeveloped except for hiking trails. The resort lodges range from 600 to 2,400 square feet of combined indoor/outdoor space, and the owner lodges average 3,200 square feet of combined indoor/outdoor space. Resort amenities include an open-air reception lodge, open-air fitness facility, pool and pool bar, restaurant overlooking the resort's private lake, full service spa, wine cave/event facility and fledgling vineyard. The primary defining feature of the design for Calistoga Ranch is the intimate connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, offering a direct experience of the natural surroundings that are unique to this valley. The second defining feature is that it "treads lightly" on the land. Every design decision was made in order to maximize guests' and owners' connection to the surroundings, while minimizing their impact upon the site. This design philosophy dictated that the architecture and interior design, while sophisticated, take a back seat to the canyon setting. In a tremendously complex design and construction effort, each of the over 200 structures that comprise Calistoga Ranch is individually placed to disturb the site as little as possible. There have been virtually no grading changes, and the only real excavation has been for the property's pool and wine cave. Lodges and amenities are linked by decomposed granite footpaths, acknowledging both the primacy of the natural setting and the site's campground legacy. Amenities are housed within separate, small-scale structures, with much of the public space provided by outdoor areas. Set upon pilings, rather than on traditional slab or perimeter foundations, the guest and owner lodges literally float above the landscape, allowing unfettered root growth and natural drainage patterns within this sensitive valley setting. The site for Calistoga Ranch had long been zoned for camp-ground use, with a strict limit on stick-built construction. Rather than attempt to change the zoning, the development and design team chose to work within the existing guidelines. In response to these zoning restrictions, and the design goal of disturbing the site as little as possible, each guest and owner lodge is actually a series of modular units, connected by wooden decks, trellised walkways and large outdoor deck/living areas. The owner lodges are arranged as individual compounds, surrounding a covered outdoor living room, furnished with teak furniture and a large outdoor fireplace, which epitomizes the approach to design. The owner lodges average 3,200 square feet, 30% of which is provided by the outdoor living spaces. Each is individually placed, with a unique arrangement of connecting decks. The positive result is that no two accommodations are alike, providing a unique experience for every resort guest or owner. All of the resort structures have been built around trees, rock outcroppings and contours of the site to make every undulation of the land and bend of the trees a part of the design. Every tree was meticulously marked to save nearly all old-growth woods. Even the cutting of individual branches required approval by the project manager. Moreover, the trees have been integrated into the design itself, using them to provide shade and drama that might otherwise have been accomplished with built elements. Materials play an important role in creating a design that combines the "cabin in the woods" atmosphere appropriate to the project's setting and philosophy with a sophisticated resort experience. Rustic materials such as cedar shingles, dry-stacked stone and copper roofs, (which will patina over time), have been combined with sleek materials such as black steel doors and steel airline cable deck railings. Floor to ceiling windows erase the line between indoor and outdoor spaces, which then blend together to create a single integrated experience.

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