Distinctive buildings often emerge from unusual sites or design briefs, and this commission presented both. Asked to design an archive and guest house adjacent to the client’s home overlooking Lake Tahoe, Roderick Ashley came up with mirror-image buildings that are barely noticeable from the lake.

“We pictured the composition as two hands spread far apart, containing this whole site but not devouring it,” Ashley says. The low-slung buildings appear as bookends connected by an aspen allee and a raised boardwalk that threads through a gravel sculpture garden. Separating the project into smaller components allowed it to be built without code adjustments, as did the choice of natural materials that blend with the wooded surroundings. The buildings are made of board-formed concrete, with sapele mahogany used on the overhangs and as a rainscreen on non-bearing walls. Roofs are post-tensioned concrete slabs supported by exposed steel columns on the inside and outside. Interior walls feature rough or sawn concrete and wood paneling, and the polished ground-concrete aggregate floors resemble terrazzo.

“Two sides of the buildings are solid, so on approach you’re not seeing much, but when you come in there’s a lot of exposure to the view and the room across the way,” Ashley says. “You can control the lights from both buildings.” A judge noted that the project “blends the formality of an edge with the natural world beyond. It applies order to nature without feeling forced.”

Entrant/Architect: TVA Architects, Portland, Ore.; Builder: John Corda Construction, Tahoe City, Calif.; Landscape designer: Murase Associates, Portland; Living space: 1,700 square feet (studio/library), 918 square feet (guest residence/garage); Site: 4.96 acres; Construction cost: Withheld; Photographer: Stephen Cridland Photographer.

Resources: Bathroom fittings: Dornbracht, www.dornbracht.com; Cooktop: Dacor, www.dacor.com; Dishwasher: Asko, www.askousa.com; Garbage disposer: Insinkerator, www.insinkerator.com; Hardware: Baldwin, www.baldwinhardware.com; Kitchen fittings: Dornbracht, www.dornbracht.com; Lighting fixtures: Iris, www.irisdesignstudio.com; Oven: Thermador, www.thermador.com; Paints/stains/wall finishes: Donald Kaufman, www.donaldkaufmancolor.com; Refrigerator: Sub-Zero, www.subzero-wolf.com; Skylights/roof windows: Velux, www.veluxusa.com