Basecamp / Johnston Architects

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Basecamp / Johnston Architects
© Benjamin Benschneider
Basecamp / Johnston Architects
© Benjamin Benschneider

Lake Cle Elum sits north of Snoqualmie Pass and east of the Cascade Crest. It is a large and somewhat remote lake which enjoys the heat of the summer and the snows of the winter. “Base Camp” was conceived by Johnston Architects as a retreat and eventually primary home for an active family of seven. It sleeps over 20 people, but more importantly acts as a recreational base for enjoyment of the surrounding rugged Cascades.

Project Details:
Location: Ronald, Washington, USA
Type: ResidentialHouses
Area: 6560 sf
Architects: Johnston Architects
Photographs: Benjamin Benschneider

Basecamp exudes the playfulness and optimism of a young family. There is a palpable sense of adventure. The concept that guided the project refers to pausing at a base camp before ascending a mountain. This retreat was conceived as a place to recharge between milestones in life. The spatial organization allows one to reorient and reconnect with nature between activities. Basecamp provides distinct zones while blurring boundaries.

Basecamp / Johnston Architects
© Benjamin Benschneider

The project accommodates the active lifestyle of a family of seven. The interior palette consists of durable natural materials and exposed structure. The retreat sleeps 18+ people to include friends, extended family, and colleagues. It provides a setting where the couple can balance work and play by hosting clients from around the world for their global consulting firm. People who would normally meet in corporate board rooms can build consensus in an inspiring setting.

Basecamp / Johnston Architects
© Benjamin Benschneider

The starting point for the concept was to create a camp with separate cabins for each purpose including live, sleep, and play. In the process of programming and site planning it became apparent that it would be more effective to consolidate the cabins into three distinct yet connected zones. Autonomy and acoustic control is maintained.

Basecamp / Johnston Architects
© Benjamin Benschneider

The circulation spaces are an opportunity to reorient to the Cle Elum Lake context while transitioning between activities. Within the living block, spaces are arranged along a view axis and step down from the kitchen to hearth to outdoor fire and the water beyond. This enables a visual journey between spaces and creates a comfortable, compelling sense of prospect and refuge.

Basecamp / Johnston Architects
© Benjamin Benschneider

Although the functions are separated into three distinct blocks there is a blurring of boundaries between indoor/outdoor spaces through the use of gabion walls on the interior and window walls. The distinction between work and play is blurred. The kitchen island is reinvented as dining table and the dining room is often repurposed as conference room. Sustainable strategies include low tech elements such as solar hot water collectors contrasted with high tech home automation systems that allow the owner to control temperature and lighting with iOS devices.

Basecamp / Johnston Architects
© Benjamin Benschneider

Basecamp achieves efficiency through a consolidation of work and play and an appropriate use of technology. It celebrates the journey of a family with five energetic boys and provides the backdrop for pause or milestones. It is a place to recharge before setting out for the summit and upon return.

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