UNLV’s Design+Build program is currently contracted with a nonprofit organization in creating an artist’s retreat center in Springdale, Utah, outside Zion National Park. Its unique location at the junction of the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin Desert, and the Colorado Plateau provides an opportunity to focus in a powerful, inspiring landscape. It is a compelling context for a design that foregrounds these experiences, while also challenging residents’ expectations.
The building site comprises six acres atop a mesa-like geological formation, with panoramic vistas for the retreat residents, providing a unique opportunity for those who inhabit the mesa to gain deeper insights into the distant landscapes of the American West. Each residential unit will be approximately 400 square feet, with two residential spaces per module. There will be two modules constructed in the first phase of the project, with future phases including artists’ studios and common spaces with opportunities for social interaction.
Each dwelling unit begins as a journey into a narrow canyon, which then opens to the sky, a reference to “The Narrows,” an iconic location in Zion National Park. Passing through the entry, the space directs the visitor to primary views of the adjacent mountains, with secondary views northward to Zion Canyon and other prominent landmarks. The building was conceived to be an analog for the way in which life on the hilltop tended to be most diverse in the cracks between the rock formations; creativity and biodiversity are connected in the design conception. The corrugated metal walls become the strata between which the project’s life occurs.