Savvy clients hire architects because they want to tackle head-on the deficits and bounties of their sites. In this case, the conservation-conscious couple purchased a stunning 9-acre site adjacent to a small graveyard in Salida, Colorado. The long-range mountain vistas are unmatched from this raised plateau in the valley, but there’s no ignoring the neighbors—those interred and those visiting periodically to pay their respects. It was clear they needed some expert design guidance.  

They turned to Brad Tomecek, AIA, of Tomecek Studio Architecture, whose website touts “We Design Experiences.” Certainly, the proof is in this project, which manages to transform the valley of death into a celestial celebration of life. Once commissioned, Brad launched a thorough investigation of his clients’ attitudes about life and death—about what disturbs them and what uplifts their spirits. He plumbed burial rituals through the ages for design inspiration, and local building traditions for ideas about materials and methods. 

The result is a modern, off-the-grid cabin that mediates between earthly existence and spiritual enlightenment. The ground-floor living quarters facilitate tasks of daily life but, as the levels rise, those mundane pursuits give way to creative expression (an art and writing studio) and ultimately culminate in a roof deck with 360-degree views of the mountains. Back downstairs in the master bedroom, a viewing shaft in the ceiling directs the gaze to the heavens—as centuries of burial chambers did, conveying the soul to its final destination. 

Project: Cemetery Residence, Salida, Colo.; architect: Brad Tomecek with support staff Ramune Rainer and Will Oliver, Tomecek Studio Architecture; builder: Fish Builders, Salida; project size: 1,257 square feet; site size: 9.1 acres. Renderings: Tomecek Studio Architecture

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