Architects observe changes in Park City
November 4, 2006
In many civilizations, architecture is the reflection of its culture and background. Enigmatic ruins haunt archeologists who seek a glimpse into the past.
While there are no ancient pyramids or stonehenges here, Park City is not without its own mysterious edifices. Remnants of Park City’s past still hold foundations among its streets and hills. The old mining buildings and houses continue to influence the architecture seen in Park City.
"Some brand new stuff looks very compatible to Old Town," said Bill Mammen, a Park City architect since 1978. "One of the things that attracted me to Park City was the historic nature."
People, Mammen said, are restoring many of the old buildings and preserving the old-vibe.
"We have the original house and the additions that work together to maintain the historical nature to it," Mammen said. "It still has that feel of an old mining town. It’s amazing that it still has that feel. Hats off to those trying to maintain that."
Rick Otto of Otto-Walker Architects has been in Park City since 1979 and also has the admiration for some of the old architecture seen downtown.
Recommended Stories For You
"I still love all the original mining structures with the Victorian flare that you see in Upper Park and Woodside and some of the old school and church buildings," Otto said. "I think they are really cool structures."
Although he did say there is some "bad stuff" intermixed with the classic structures, overall the buildings create an atmosphere unique to Park City.
"There’s several," Otto said, "if you cruise Old Town, you can pick up the turn-of-the-century buildings that are still really great. There’s several buildings on Main Street that have sort of evolved over time and have been updated for current use but still maintain the mining-era character."
Specific buildings he mentioned are the former Utah Power Building that now houses the Phoenix Gallery and the old Imperial Hotel.
The mining influence makes this town unique, not only compared to other cities but to other resort towns as well.
"Park City has an architecture style similar to other resort communities as far as style," said Scott Jaffa of Jaffa Group Architects. "Because we are an old mining town, you see a mining influence that you don’t see in other (resort) towns. It is filtering out to other suburbs too."
"People still tend to want fairly rustic solutions. Sort of the mountain-cabin feel. It’s gone to more of a refined rustic these days," said Otto.
In the last 30 years however, with the population growing, architecture has seen a lot of changes as well.
"Twenty-eight years ago, a lot of the homes in Park City were second homes. For every full-time residence built there were two or three second homes," Mammen said.
Slowly, Mammen said, the trend changed and people started buying homes for primary residences. As a result, the houses started to be more complex and filled with amenities.
"About the time Deer Valley was being built," Mammen said, "The design of all homes started to become more primary residence oriented even condominiums."
While the Old Town and mountain theme is still popular there are some other minor changes recently.
"When I came here, the houses were a little more mountain and rustic and they’ve gone a little more streamlined and a little more mountain contemporary and less Paul Bunyan-like," Jaffa said.
The new-age Park City architecture is becoming more complex.
"Things were pretty basic in the old days," Otto said, " and it really has gotten specific over time. The detail and heating systems are much more refined and complicated. All the materials are much nicer, more expensive and we really have come up with some great finishes these days."
In the ’90s,Mammen observed a dramatic shift in home design.
"In the ’90s we saw the trophy-home phenomena come in. People started building things that are incredible and almost exclusively second homes or third homes.
"They include features that are off the charts. There might be a $1,000 dollar sink in the powder room. One room might have $30,000 of treatments in it. That started in the ’90s and has accelerated right through to today, really," Mammen said.
Mammen said every home used to have one fireplace, now he says people demand multiple fireplaces including one outside on the deck. Storage that can hold a plethora of recreation gear from skis to bikes and four-wheelers is also becoming a huge feature. People, he said, want to create their own mini resort.
The larger and more intricate homes brought advantages and disadvantages for architects.
"In one sense we get to design dramatic spaces and interesting architecture," Mammen said. "On the other side, the clients are more demanding and expect a higher level of detail in the design and in the construction.
"With the bigger homes and the nicer designs comes a higher level of headache during construction," Mammen added. "We get paid more, but I can tell you, it was a whole lot easier. I can only do one home in the time I did six before."
"In 1990 if we did it in 10 months we were good," Mammen said. "Now if we are doing it in 18 months we are happy. It’s more intricate with theater consultants, swimming pools, the wiring. All this has to be done one step after the other."
The trend seems to be swinging back a little, however.
"People were going bigger, bigger, bigger," Jaffa said. "Now I see a trend where they want to go more smaller and more efficient."
"The size of homes is becoming less important," Mammen said. "The mega-home is going to become more rare but people are still going to spend on what they consider quality items."
One popular theme is green building. People and builders are becoming more environmentally aware than before.
"One of the trends I see now is more clients are asking for green building materials and tankless water heaters," Jaffa said. "We are retrofitting a client’s heated driveway with a solar hot-water system versus using a boiler."
Not long ago, green building was unheard heard of.
"In the 90s people didn’t care at all," Mammen said. "I’ve been trying since I’ve been in this business in the 70s. I’ve tried to make them highly efficient to operate. Now people are asking for it."
Jaffa believes green building is more than just a way to save energy costs.
"Whether you believe in global warming or not we need to conserve," Jaffa said. "We just can’t keep throwing away everything. I think you’ll see a lot of renovation of older homes as opposed to building new homes."
Certain materials are also becoming a trend recently.
"There’s a lot of use towards more metals and re-using materials," Jaffa said. "Wood from old barns or from the great Salt lake. That really seems to be a trend. When you start incorporating metals, that also brings in the historic mining aspect of the community."
People, Jaffa said, want a place where they can gather for the holidays a place where they can feel warm and cozy inside.
"One of the biggest things I’ve seen is they want a new house to look older, versus new, highly-polished, highly-sleek finishes," Jaffa said. "I think what’s important in looking at architecture is finding the things that are timeless and won’t have to be renovated in 5-10 years."
The old mining design is obviously timeless and with modern materials, one can design a beautiful home in Park City. Jaffa advises people who are planning to build a home to remember those things when deciding on the look of their building.
"A lot of decorations that might look great and amazing now can look very dated later. I prefer simpler more classic styles of architecture and do the detailing in the massing of the building versus a lot of decoration in the house," Jaffa said. "Using color, doing two or three colors to break up the mass of the home."