Possibilities weighed at Wyman Ranch

Lou Wyman is recruiting architects to design a building that's one of a kind and authentic to Northwest Colorado.

He would like a 10,000-square foot structure to serve as the visitor center at the Wyman Living History Ranch and Museum east of Craig.

"I think we'd like a building that would look like a barn," he said.

So he organized a meeting of Colorado architects and architecture students Saturday to begin the process of making that happen.

Steamboat Springs architect Cyd Pougiales of Thira Incorporated and Aspen architect Harry Teague of Harry Teague Architects presented previous projects and their visions for Wyman's place. Fourteen third-year students in the University of Colorado at Denver College of Architecture and Planning program also attended and will each develop theoretical proposals for the project.

"Everyone is working on ... pieces and parts," said assistant professor Ekaterini Vlahos, formerly of Craig. "But it's all supposed to come together in the end."

Joel McCarty, executive director of Timber Framers Guild, based in Massachusetts, is also involved in the project. The materials used for the structure will be heavy timbers brought by the nonprofit organization of builders.

He expressed his disinterest in working with architects because he believes he can complete the project without them. So many architects, he said, are only concerned with how the building looks.

"The least thing I need my architects to do is bring an aesthetic value," McCarty said. "I need my architects to be professional project managers."

He encourages property owners to use local materials and local tradesmen to make the building appropriate for its setting.

"My goal is to build a building that looks like it actually belongs here," he said.

Teague shared his view. As he narrated slides of past projects integrating old and new styles, he stressed the importance of a facility that fits and enhances the community.

"I think that's why people live to come to places like this, a feeling of connectedness," he said.

He spoke extensively about authenticity and the importance of a "living museum" where there are demonstrations of candle-making and wool-dyeing. This struck a chord with architecture student Robert Childers. "I think that's perfect for what we're trying to do here," he said.

Pougiales also pointed out a site such as Wyman's needs a self-sustaining feature. She suggested a retail store where visitors could purchase items made in the Yampa Valley.

Now that Wyman has discussed the possibilities with the architects, Vlahos said decisions are up to him. He started on this project two years ago, and is still unloading truckloads of antiques. He is constructing a blacksmith shop on the property.

Vlahos began working with Wyman, a longtime acquaintance, last year with a different set of students. This year, students are focused on the properties of heavy timber building and the site's specific needs.

Wyman would like the facility to include meeting rooms, an auditorium and information about other heritage tourism opportunities in the area.

He has already had requests for a summer wedding to be held there in 2006. Vlahos expects the project to be completed by then, but Wyman's not ready to bank on it.

Local officials, including Craig Mayor Don Jones and Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray, who attended the meeting, indicated support for the facility.

"I think this is going to be a great asset to the city and the county," Jones said.

The architecture students are excited for the opportunity as well. They chose to work with Vlahos on this project, a rare rural one. "It's going to be a real project," student Erick Moden said. "A lot of things we do don't ever get built. But this has the potential to become real."

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