Illinois Creek Ranch / El Dorado


© Mike Sinclair

© Mike Sinclair
  • Architects: El Dorado
  • Location: Alma, KS 66401, United States
  • Principal In Charge: David Dowell
  • Project Manager: Sean Slattery
  • Area: 5600.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2015
  • Photographs: Mike Sinclair
  • Design Staff: Gavin Snider,
  • Contractor: Gene Fritzel Construction
  • Interior Design: George Terbovich
  • Structural Engineer: Genesis Structures
  • Masonry: Luke Koch

© Mike Sinclair

© Mike Sinclair

From the architect. Located on an historic farmstead in Wabaunsee County, Kansas, Illinois Creek Ranch was designed for a family of five and their summer guests. The goal was to forge an emotional bond between people and a unique landscape.  Structures were purposefully straightforward in their vernacular appearance with a focus on innovative, nuanced detailing and contemporary material selection.


© Mike Sinclair

© Mike Sinclair

Floor plan

Floor plan

© Mike Sinclair

© Mike Sinclair

The design team began by studying the site – the topography, soil and hydrological conditions, wind and sun patterns.  To the north sits the crest of a hill, gently sloping towards the south side of the ranch in curving waves. At the south end of the site, a man-made pond, barn and cattle pastures. Embracing the house typology of the area was just a starting point for the structure; the house was positioned just to the south of the crest of the hill, and designed as part of a broader ranch compound, the only contemporary addition since the early 20th century. Site conditions and family function dictated the design of four, separate wings, each a simple rectangular volume with a pitched roof. The house runs parallel to topography to accommodate single story program, and turns perpendicular to topography for multiple story program. Each wing strategically blocks constant wind to allow for comfortable outdoor areas, while windows were positioned to allow passive cooling inside the home.  Buildings were positioned to take full advantage of seasonal solar heat gain.


© Mike Sinclair

© Mike Sinclair

The residence is not unlike the rest of the buildings on the farm, wood structures with limestone bases and corrugated metal roofs that spread out in long horizontal lines across the country’s last remaining tall grass prairie. Nearby Alma is known as the “City of Native Stone;” the chimney and landscape walls are built out of limestone from a nearby quarry by local stone mason Luke Koch. Clad in a 1×4 cedar rain with wood windows and corrugated metal roofs, the four wings are linked by two glass-enclosed atriums with flat, planted roofs that emphasize the surrounding landscape. Movement throughout the home was carefully choreographed to engage a range of landscape experiences.  Skylights were positioned to shift emphasis from horizontal to vertical, offering views of the Midwestern sky and ample daylighting.


© Mike Sinclair

© Mike Sinclair

The program called for kitchen / living / dining / patio area in the more ‘public’ central portion of the house.  This area was supported by a mudroom, powder room, and pantry. An entry atrium connects the public area to the garage.  The garage has a bed / bath above it as a separate guest area. The family bedrooms are in two, separate ‘private’ structures which are connected to the public area thru the second glass atrium. The master suite fills one of the structures, and the children’s rooms fill a second.


© Mike Sinclair

© Mike Sinclair

The final result of Illinois Creek Ranch is a residence that defers to it’s surroundings and strikes the right balance between honoring the integrity of the site and designing a boldly contemporary project.


© Mike Sinclair

© Mike Sinclair

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