PULLMAN, Wash. – “Like David and Goliath” is how Washington State University faculty member Paul Hirzel, from the School of Architecture and Construction Management, described the feeling of receiving one of three honor awards from the American Institute of Architects Seattle.

 

Hirzel, along with Greg Kessler, director and faculty member in the School of Architecture and Construction Management, and former student Mike Jobes, received the award last week for the design of ‘The Canyon House,’ a home designed on a 40-acre property overlooking the Clearwater River upstream from Lewiston, Idaho.

 

Other award winners include designers of the Seattle Central Library, which is being called one of the most significant buildings of the 21st century, and the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, home of the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Seattle Opera. There were 150 entries from design professionals in the competition.

 

“See here a rethinking of the idea of house, in a way that conforms with particular aptness to its place in the landscape…’’ wrote jurors in their comments about the award. “The invention comes in the rediscovery of agrarian forms, with weight and structure of the building elements perfectly calibrated to the place, at the same time avoiding cliché.’’

 

‘Canyon House’ was a rare instance where the builder, site, owner and architect all joined together to produce something that is treasured, Hirzel said. The site had such strength, and owner Kenneth Campbell, professor of physiology and bioengineering, valued that, he said.

 

“I think the jury may have responded to a different aesthetic that evolves out of this place. It represents an attitude toward building and landscape that refreshed them,’’ he said.

 

Campbell and Hirzel were brought together by Campbell’s daughter, Ellen, who took Hirzel’s site design class in the late 1990s. As Campbell struggled to build on the challenging, steep site, his daughter suggested he contact Hirzel. After visiting the site, Campbell agreed with Hirzel’s suggestion that he construct two buildings on the property instead of one—a bunkhouse in a steep ravine and a studio house that looks down from a finger ridge. An important third part of the design was a nearby knoll, a favorite viewing spot that remains undeveloped.

 

“If we put the house all in one place, there would be no reason to wander the site,’’ Hirzel said. “Instead, this design engages the site in movement from one significant experience to the next.’’

 

Rather than its visual beauty, the strength of the home’s design is its ability to make one feel the presence of the outside world throughout the structure, Campbell said.

 

“Everywhere you are (in the home), you know you’re part of the outside world,’’ he said. “I think that is exceptional.’’