Destination: Forever Ranch & Gardens



We at D:FR believe that more widespread consideration ought to be given to alternative building methods, especially given the overall cost of current construction methods to the environment, society at large, and the pocketbooks of individual people. Typical buildings are created with more of an eye to the profits of developers, lending institutions, and various corporate industries than to livability, the earth, and long-term environmental consequences. Buildings are sited on their lots without any regard to the sun and its potential to reduce heating and cooling costs. Toxic materials are in widespread, practically inescapable use, and serious lengths must be gone to in an effort to avoid them. Seldom is much consideration given to such livability factors as insulation value, embodied energy costs, carbon footprint, long-term energy operation costs, view sheds, and positioning for privacy. The need to access every home by at least two cars has made the garage and driveway the dominant curbside features, rather than a socially inviting porch or attractive gardens designed to produce food, beauty, and habitat for small animals.

A House In The Rocks

Our interest at D:FR in alternative building methods dates back to General Manager Jan Emming's high school days, when he saw a particular home featured on the cover of Architectural Digest magazine. Now known as the Boulder House, this home is located in Scottsdale, Arizona. What made it so unique was the fact that it had been built in a large outcropping of granite boulders. Not near it, not next to it, not even with just one wall against it, but completely in the outcrop. The rooms of the Boulder House are scattered throughout spaces between rocks in the large outcrop, which covers about one acre in area and towers up to twenty feet tall in many places. Hallways and passages connect the rooms in an extremely organic fashion, and the rock walls of every room were left completely natural. Many of the rooms are at differing levels, connected by a few steps, so as not to cut into the rock below them. The only modifications made to the stones were a few holes drilled for the vigas, which are the large peeled logs that support the roof.

The cover photo that attracted Jan's attention was an exceptionally spectacular and visionary treatment of a window. There was a particular cleft in between two large boulders, irregular in shape and diagonally slanted, that had been glazed in by inserting specially cut glass panes into two opposite but perfectly aligned grooves carved into the granite. What would have been viewed as a problem to be solved with cement or dynamite by most people, architect Charles F. Johnson turned into an utter work of art. The effect is that of being in a cave with a shaft of light penetrating deeply into the interior. The feel of the outcrop is not only maintained by this creatively unparalleled solution, but is actually enhanced by it. How easy it would have been to destroy this delicate effect! Needless to say, the rest of the Boulder House is treated with similar vision and respect. This home provided one of the guiding visions for the next 15 years of Jan's life, and the property ultimately selected for the creation of Destination: Forever Ranch was in part chosen because of the presence of large granitic outcrops. Buildings from the Boulder House mode will be executed in a similarly sensitive and unique fashion.

To view the Boulder House online, visit www.boulderhousepublishers.com

Papercrete As A Building Method