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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Mountain House

WSU’s Hirzel Wins Pacific Region Award for ’Mountain House’

WSU’s Hirzel Wins Pacific Region Award for ‘Mountain House’

Paul Hirzel, faculty member with the Washington State University School of Architecture and Construction Management, is the recipient of a prestigious Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects(AIA) Northwest and Pacific Region.

Garage and deck view of Paul Hirzel's award-winning design of the Mountain House.

Hirzel received the award for the design of ‘The Mountain House,’ a home designed on a 24-acre site that includes forest and grassland on Moscow Mountain about five miles outside of Moscow, Idaho.

The AIA Northwest & Pacific Region annually holds the Region Design Awards (RDA) competition for projects designed by AIA architects from Hong Kong to Montana. He received the award at a ceremony in Tokyo, Japan, in November.

A successful project results from a unique combination of courageous client, spectacular site, quality builder, and innovative architect, says Hirzel. He was initially contacted by the home owners, who were set to retire in the Palouse area to be closer to family. Hirzel’s design philosophy is based on the idea of a project’s responsiveness to its site and surrounding landscape.

View from the deck of the mountain house. WSU professor Paul Hirzel won a prestigious award for his design of the Moscow, Idaho home.In the case of the mountain house, the first impulse was to put the house in the meadow, but Hirzel recommended instead locating the house in the trees at the edge of the meadow, just below a ridge top. This allows the owner to see wildlife activity in the meadow, as well as to receive shade from trees. The house is super insulated and uses natural ventilation and sunlight to reduce energy costs. An ingenious post and beam structural system, a derivative of a common Palouse building type (the pole barn hayshed) helped to keep construction costs low.

The owners wanted to disturb the site as little as possible. A narrow road leads to the home, and instead of a yard, all of the exterior spaces are decks. The home, in fact, has nearly twice as much deck space as interior living space. The result is that wild grasses and indigenous plants can surround the home up to the front door.

“Luxury captured beautifully, without being ostentatious” and “a subtle take on the linear tree house theme – light and nautical at times” were comments from the awards jury.

Hirzel’s goal was to “make a place that is treasured – provide an experience that enhanced day-to-day living…when you walk into the house, there is a sense of uplift and well being.”

A look inside a Moscow, Idaho home designed by WSU professor Paul Hirzel

Beams inside a Moscow, Idaho home designed by WSU professor Paul Hirzel

Evening view of a Moscow, Idaho house that sits atop a mountain ridge. The award-winning house was designed by WSU professor Paul Hirzel.