The Rock

A private residence perched upon a rocky outcrop in Whistler

One of the earliest sketches, showing a floating roof over spaces carved into and growing out of the existing rock
Sketches recording site experiences made during the initial competition visit informed the project throughout
The simple act of enclosing the Rock’s crest with a roof captures a space that frames panoramic views
Sketch of the main living volume during design development post-competition

This project is the winning design for an invited competition to build an exceptional private residence in the Canadian mountain resort of Whistler. This exemplary new-build family home is perched upon a distinctive rocky outcrop above Alta Lake, across which it enjoys beautiful views of the surrounding mountain range. Considering how to approach this challenging topography, we recalled a passage from the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1932 autobiography: ‘No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together, each the happier for the other.’ This would become the founding principle of the design.

Our proposal sought to reconcile several contradictions: expansive views and living spaces while maintaining a sense of intimacy; maximising inhabitable area while maintaining an understated appearance from public view.

Geometries of the house are set out according to existing landscape contours, trees and key views
1:50 scale developed design model
1:200 scale concept model
1:100 scale design development model
1:50 scale competition model – east elevation
1:50 scale competition model – main view
The main living areas, with a unifying timber slatted ceiling defining different spaces
View of Alta Lake from the main living area with the Rock’s crest in the foreground
Interior view at the main entrance
The bottom of the main stair, with route to basement areas concealed
The main living area, bound by a two-sided fireplace and double-height lantern
A sculpture gallery along a corridor culminates in a double-height hall carved into the rock
The entrance hall, evoking qualities of being within the rocky landscape
A long, gentle ascent transitions from dark to light towards the main living areas
Living area materials: boardmarked concrete, timber ribbed ceiling and joinery, brass handrail and cast glass internal light
The inside-outside dining area, with expansive landscape views
View from the main living area towards the pool and guest house
The base of a stairwell connecting all floors of the main house
A key landing at the junction of two stairs with a continuous brass handrail; note the bespoke brass door handle cast from a pear and used throughout the house
A stair forms part of the main circulation in the timber-lined upper volume
Views of nearby trees from a corridor within the guest house lantern, lined in local hemlock
The master bathroom forms part of one of the house’s lanterns
Glimpses of the master bedroom from its walk-in wardrobe
The study lantern, with blue-stained joinery
The main kitchen is immersed in a woodland setting
The main living areas feel like they are part of a series of terraces leading up to the crest of the existing rock
View of The Rock from Whistler’s Lakeside Park
The bold end elevation of the study volume, with a firepit sculpture on the pool terrace
A panoramic roof terrace above the main living areas offers yet another perspective
The guest house, with its reflection in the pool
The pool and hot tub form part of connecting terraces between main and guest houses
Steam rising from the hot tub in the morning sun
View of The Rock catching late afternoon sun from across Alta Lake

Living in The Rock is a special experience… Many architects, through their work, create art and alter environments. A few, like Gort Scott, transform lives.

Private client
An early sketch showing the base of the main stair rising from a space carved into the rock
The main stair retraces contours of the existing landscape
Interior sketch describing the look and feel of the music room
Interior sketch showing the view towards the guest house from the main living area
Early interior sketch of the study lantern
Film by Tapio Snellman

The design evolved from a sensitive site analysis involving deep appreciation of the site’s natural beauty, which was explored at the outset through time spent on-site in different weather conditions and times of the day; sketching and observing the changing light.

The project comprises a main residence, guest-house, and outdoor pool within a series of landscaped levels cut into and built out of the rock. Gort Scott also designed the high-end interiors including bespoke fittings.

View of Alta Lake from the main living area with the Rock’s crest in the foreground

Further information


Whistler, Canada
Project type
Private houses
Completed 2018
Floor area


Gort Scott Team
Jay Gort, Fiona Scott, Joe Mac Mahon, Andrew Tam
Kat Sullivan (Building Technician), Equilibrium (Structures), MCW (Building Services), Hapa Collaborative (Landscape), GVH Consulting (Geotechnical), JRS Engineering (Envelope), Alka Pool (Pool), Millson (AV), Eos Lightmedia Lighting)
Dürfeld Constructors (main contractor), Leon Lebeniste (joinery)
Client representative
Mabel Law
Tapio Snellman
Sound and music
Adam Lieber
Rory Gardiner, David Grandorge (models)

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