By Christine Benedetti | May 22, 2015 | People
A principal at the award winning Rowland+Broughton design firm, starchitect Sarah Broughton is determined to pave Aspen’s architectural future with gold.
With so many contracts about town, architect Sarah Broughton, along with husband John Rowland, is remaking Aspen in her image. Top, A.L.C. Pitkin County Dry Goods. Skirt, Burberry London. Necklace, Anna Trzebinski. Watch, Vacheron Constantin. Meridian Jewelers
Everything Sarah Broughton touches turns to gold—that and quarried marble and reclaimed wood. The 41-year-old is a principal architect in her design firm Rowland+Broughton, along with her husband, John Rowland, whom she met while studying architecture at the University of Colorado. Together, they’ve taken their company on a meteoric rise from working out of their condo at the base of Aspen Mountain in 2003 to running one of the state’s top award-winning firms, with 32 full-time staffers split between their Aspen base and Denver outpost. Still, says Broughton, “There’s more to do. That’s what we work on every day.”
Since launching, R+B has completed 385 projects and won 50 awards. Glance around Aspen and you are likely to find a structure their firm has influenced, if not created. In 2012, they renovated Aspen’s crown jewel, the Hotel Jerome, and received several awards—and sweeping praise from the community—for paying homage to the property’s historic roots while embracing modern luxury. Upon their debuts, Element 47, inside The Little Nell; BB’s Kitchen; and the Crandall Building, home to Sandy’s Office Supply and a topfloor penthouse, all turned heads, too. Basalt’s Woody Creek Distillers, a 10,700-square-foot production facility and tasting room, also received nods from two Colorado chapters of national design associations. Though Broughton is the creative brain behind an impressive list of projects, one of the most public is yet to come: the complete rebuild of the Sky Hotel, set to be razed and replaced with a 114,000-square-foot, chalet-style lodge, beginning next spring. But R+B’s scope is not just about resorts, and it is not just in Aspen.
The firm started an office in Denver to propel it to a national level—and it’s working. With 35 projects in the Denver International Airport alone, the company has expanded to developments in Park City, Utah, and Ketchum, Idaho. But Broughton is conscious of the growth, both within her company and in Aspen. Before trading in her boardroom experience for something more light in the toes—she now sits on the board of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and the public policy committee of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association—she served for eight years on Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission. “Historic preservation is really important to me in maintaining our historicism but allowing for growth and allowing for change,” she says. “Both can coexist.”
She recalls standing on top of the Little Nell run in her skis when she first got to town, in 2000, looking down at Aspen pre-St. Regis and pre-Hyatt. Since then, much has been built, but her forecast includes less up and out, and more in. “I see Aspen very much the same from a mass and scale standpoint in the future,” she says. “I’m a proponent of density. With that comes fun design challenges.” And fun is part of her ethos.
Broughton works hard and plays hard. On weekends that means skiing, hiking, and biking. During the week, she loves to “break bread” with her husband and clients after a day at the office. And in between it all, hopping on a plane to recharge is just as much vacation as it is a muse for future work. “I’m inspired by nature and great art, and I’m constantly out there looking for it,” she says.
She makes sure that culture of innovation trickles down by having an “inspiration” meeting every other week with staff. On the off weeks, the team has project meetings. “Everyone in the office should feel safe to try, to dare, and to design,” she says. If their risk turns out anything like Broughton’s, then Aspen— and the country—can expect a lot more gold.
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