Boise architecture has come along way since the founding and settlement of the Idaho terrain. From tutors to the Victorian style to the split level to Art Deco, Idaho has become a melting pot of architectural designs.
One of the most unique forms of architecture is the Art Troutner home. This house embodies many different styles of architecture. The Troutner home incorporates nature by the addition of river rock, wood, trees and the original cliff side into the house itself. The house was built in 1955-1957 and the architect of the house was Arthur Troutner.
Arthur Troutner was born in 1922 into a poor family in a farming community. Troutner began to build and design things at a very young age and eventually became an inventor and cofounder of Trus-Joist Corporation. He was born and lived in Idaho his whole life and was not very well known outside of Idaho. In 1949 Troutner graduated from the University of Idaho from the small Department of Architecture. Throughout his life, Troutner has had over sixty prominent architecture projects, such as the Boise Little Theatre, TJ International Offices, and Kibbie Activities Center and has crafted buildings primarily in the West. Troutner’s inspiration and creativity for his unique projects came from his humble background, his experience with war crafts, and his love of nature, taking after Frank Lloyd Wright.
In 1955, Arthur Troutner began to build one of his finest pieces up to date which would eventually host his family consisting of his wife, two sons, and a daughter. For the location Troutner chose a natural setting within the foothills, which was at the time well away from any type of civilization. He wanted the feel of the house to be like it was one with the natural surroundings, so he literally built the house into the cliff rock incorporating the rock and nearby trees into the house. The house itself was supported by a single steel beam that was two feet in diameter from which wood beams protruded on all sides to make a circular structure. With the unique circular structure there are no ninety degree angles in the house and even the walls leaned outward or inward giving the inside of the house a very unique feel. For example, the front wall of the house leans inward six degrees. The house is primarily made of local wood and stone with the exception of the steel beam.
Some of the most unique features of the house include a stone hearth located in the middle of the house, the sixteen different sides of the house, the unique beams on the ceiling, the beautiful view which from a window a person can view Lucky Peak, from another the Owyhee mountains, and yet from another Oregon. The most significant characteristic of the Troutner house is the dramatic suspension of the house over the cliff by the support of the steel beam through the center of the house.
Towards the end of the 20th century, the house was being watched by a caretaker. Unfortunately, the caretaker left a light on, causing an electrical fire to destroy the roof and first floor of the structure. After the fire, the house lay vacant, boards covering windows and doors, for a number of years. Then, in 2000, a family living in one of the surrounding homes, took interest in the destroyed house and decided to restore it. This project was estimated to last ten years, and the current owners are into the fifth year of construction. Despite only being halfway done, the house looks remarkably similar to photographs found in a ’50s magazine. While they did add on a whole new wing, making the total square footage of the house to be more than 2000, they kept true to the original designs and ideas of Arthur Troutner. This house, with the original design of Art Troutner combined with the additions and restorations contributed by the current occupants have made this house into a true architectural masterpiece.
The house displays styles related to contemporary, shed, and natural. Contemporary architectural design includes oddly shaped windows, exposed beams, an unusual mixture of wood, brick, and stone, and an incorporation of nature. The Troutner house had windows and doors that had a trapezoid shape. This was due to the circular shape of the building. For example, we were shown a window that had a width of six feet at the bottom, but at the top of the window it was near six and a half feet, the doors in the house had the same look.
All throughout the house there was the exposed beams, all of them meeting in the center of the house to where the steel beam is located which holds the beams upward and straight. This house is made up of all natural materials, the influence of nature is very evident in every room of the house. The Troutner house also displays the shed design. The house displays very asymmetric characteristics such as the sixteen different sides of the house and the angled walls of the house. The roof is sloped as well, showing more shed characteristics. Also this house is very modern compared to the other houses in the nationhood. This uniqueness shows yet another characteristic of the shed style.
This house, overlooking Boise, stands above the city both literally, in its naturally higher location in the foothills, as well as figuratively, because of its superior architectural design.
Source: Current owners
Historic photos provided by home owner