An Incredible Forest Home Leaps Over a Ravine

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By Anna Jones
Tucked into a heavily wooded parcel in rural Iowa, the Ravine Residence blurs the boundary between interior and exterior with layers of light, glass, and wood.

Designed by BNIM, the residence spans the ravine which runs down the middle of the site, preserving the natural conditions while creating a powerful massing solution. Light, glass, and wood intersect as the house nestles into the landscape.  Refined detailing and a simple material palette create a backdrop for a play of light and shadows  across all seasons.

An Incredible Forest Home Leaps Over a Ravine - Photo 1 of 9 - Stained tongue-and-groove Western red cedar siding wraps the upper volume. 

Stained tongue-and-groove Western red cedar siding wraps the upper volume. 

An Incredible Forest Home Leaps Over a Ravine - Photo 2 of 9 - Cedar walls and Bega wall sconces seamlessly extend from exterior to interior. 

Cedar walls and Bega wall sconces seamlessly extend from exterior to interior. 

An Incredible Forest Home Leaps Over a Ravine - Photo 3 of 9 - Large format Fiandre floor tiles fill the entry sequence and align with the building module. 

Large format Fiandre floor tiles fill the entry sequence and align with the building module. 

The social space serves as the core of the house, linking the public spaces to the private retreats. Arranged paths of circulation provide changing perspectives as occupants pass from space to space, and full-height glass allows the landscape to spill inside. The dark wood floor seamlessly blends the living spaces with the surrounding forest. 

An Incredible Forest Home Leaps Over a Ravine - Photo 4 of 9 - Despite large amounts of glass, the house provides spaces of refuge.  The outdoor patio is nestled into the hillside, sheltered by the landscape and building. 

Despite large amounts of glass, the house provides spaces of refuge.  The outdoor patio is nestled into the hillside, sheltered by the landscape and building. 

An Incredible Forest Home Leaps Over a Ravine - Photo 5 of 9 - Open stair treads, composed of rift sawn white oak with a custom stain, allow light to pass through.

Open stair treads, composed of rift sawn white oak with a custom stain, allow light to pass through.

An Incredible Forest Home Leaps Over a Ravine - Photo 6 of 9 - A custom steel-and-glass guardrail is built with careful detailing and restraint. 

A custom steel-and-glass guardrail is built with careful detailing and restraint. 

An Incredible Forest Home Leaps Over a Ravine - Photo 7 of 9 - The master suite is filled with plentiful views, while taking advantage of the outside forest for complete privacy year-round. 

The master suite is filled with plentiful views, while taking advantage of the outside forest for complete privacy year-round. 

The geometry of the roof was delicately designed to allow the interior spaces to be day-lit year-round without needing shades. An extended overhang on the south shields all warm-season direct sunlight, while full-height glass allows northern light to reflect upon the white ceiling, capturing the light and shadow of the sky. 

This carefully created architectural solution celebrates the sensory experience of nature through the play of material selection, alignment, and views.

An Incredible Forest Home Leaps Over a Ravine - Photo 8 of 9 -
An Incredible Forest Home Leaps Over a Ravine - Photo 9 of 9 -


Project Credits

-Architect of Record: BNIM

-Builder/General Contractor: Mainbuilt

-Structural Engineer: Saul Engineering

-Landscape Design: Ted Lare Design + Build

-Cabinetry Design: Minnesota Cabinets

-HVAC Design Build: Baxter Comfort Solutions

-Geotechnical Engineers: Allender Butzke

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