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Nothing to see here
A caretaker’s residence in a popular public park on the Snake River blends into the surrounding area, while still allowing the caretaker inside to keep an eye on things.
By Samantha Simma | Renderings courtesy of GYDE Architects
GYDE ARCHITECTS DESIGNED MOST OF the built structures in Rendezvous Park, including the restroom and combined rest area/information kiosk. So it made sense that the firm, which was founded in 2017 by architects Peggy Gilday and Nona Yehia, should design the park’s office, maintenance shed, and caretaker’s residence.
The caretaker’s residence was a county requirement, “but it also had to fit within the park design,” says Laurie Andrews, president of the Jackson Hole Land Trust, the nonprofit that owns and operates Rendezvous Park on the west bank of the Snake River near the intersection of Highways 390 and 22. After almost three years of reclamation, the 40-acre park on the site of a former gravel pit opened to the public in 2014 and quickly became a community gathering space with thriving wildlife habitat, ponds, meadows, and knolls. Gilday calls it “a natural playground,” and the aesthetic of the structures aims to capitalize on that playfulness.
The caretaker’s residence is “unlike anything we’ve ever worked on,” says Gilday, who was also the architect behind the 2011 expansion of the Teton County Library. “It was unique in the needs that needed to be met. In a typical home we have a client, and here we didn’t. We had to be flexible, considering that it could be a family or a single person” who would be residing in the home. Because of this, the design of the 961-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bathroom residence is neutral. The interior materials palate includes simple, durable finishes at a moderate price point: floors are wood, doors are flat-panels, and walls are drywall. These materials have the added benefit of keeping the space bright in an otherwise shady, wooded environment, and also allow residents to personalize the space with their own furnishings and decorations. To make the residence appear smaller than it is, its second bedroom is positioned at the back of the building, but an open floor plan and vaulted ceilings make the spaces feel larger than they are. Corner windows provide forested views that allow caretakers to observe and regulate park visitor activities while still providing privacy.
“We wanted the residence to have the same language as the kiosk and restroom,” says Katherine Koriakin, GYDE’s lead architect and project manager. The designs of both the kiosk, which is covered and has built-in benches adjacent to informational panels about the park, and the 237-square-foot bathroom include evenly spaced cedar slats and tall cedar poles. The former creates an airiness that blends with the natural surroundings, while the latter serve as navigation aids that can be seen from almost anywhere in the park. The caretaker’s residence also uses cedar in its exterior materials palate: Natural cedar frames its entryway and windows, and the house is sided with cedar that has been stained black. “The black melds back into the darker trees in that area, with the more natural wood relating back to the kiosk,” says Koriakin.
Because so much effort went into reclaiming the park’s natural environment, the residence was partially sited based on where the fewest trees would have to be cut. Having tagged the healthy trees in the area, “we realized if we moved the house five feet and twisted it, we’d save five trees,” says Koriakin.
If you want to see the new caretaker’s residence at R Park, the park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Its entrance is off Highway 390, a.k.a. Teton Village Road, about ½ mile north of its intersection with Highway 22.