Globe-trotting architect takes aim at climate change |

Globe-trotting architect takes aim at climate change

Sarah Broughton at work in her office on Main Street in Aspen.
Julie Bielenberg/The Aspen Times

Sarah Broughton – who with partner John Rowland launched Rowland + Broughton 20 years ago in Aspen – is on a four-month whirlwind across the nation and world to showcase Colorado’s architectural solutions to climate change and use of sustainability in design.

She’s also the president of the American Institute of Architects’ Colorado Chapter, which has 2,500 members, and recently returned from a conference in Washington, D.C. Soon, she’ll be off to Italy.

“It was an incredible experience. We were lobbying on the hill and really talking about what it means to be a citizen architect,” she said.

The gathering of colleagues from across the nation energized her.

“Sometimes, we are all in our little silos working, and when we can get together, our collection of aggregate knowledge will impact change,” she said. 

The focus of the conference was on two bills, the Resilient America Act and the Democracy in Design Act.

“These bipartisan bills address the need for regional architectural responses to our environment and to our context,” she said.

Courtyard view of Rowland + Broughton’s current hotel project in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Rowland + Broughton/Courtesy image

Broughton and her team are presenting at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in May. This is an international exhibition of architecture from nations around the world held in Venice, Italy, every other year. 

“This is part of the European Cultural Center where they invite architects from around the world,” she said. “They have always had representation from the East and West coasts, but this year, they wanted to hear from people in the mountains. That is how we choose our project, to keep it a very regional focus.”

The river panel rendering that will be presented at the Venice exhibition.
Rowland + Broughton/Courtesy photo

A visit to the Headwaters River Journey, a museum in Winter Park, made her think about the amount of water getting pumped out of rivers and used for lawns. 

Design board at Rowland + Broughton.
Julie Bielenberg/The Aspen Times

“Our exhibition explores redefining beauty through innovative architecture that uses less and is informed by nature,” she said.

The Rowland + Broughton team will display a series of panels exploring the concept of redefining beauty, layered over a photo of the dry Colorado River taken by Pete McBride.

Back home

At the corner of 4th and Main Street in Aspen is a Victorian-era blue building sure to catch the eye. What was once an old grocery store with a wooden storefront, Mesa Store, is now the three-story home of Rowland + Broughton. 

In Denver, the firm has occupied a historic building on 18th and Blake in LoDo for nearly two decades.

Today, the firm employs over 40 people in the two offices. 

Among their projects loser to home, Redstone’s Castle is undergoing a transformation that excites Broughton.

“The owners have a vision for a wellness retreat that will be created with historic preservation to honor the buildings,” she said.

The architecture firm will design cottages that allow people to stay on the land lightly, along with a greenhouse for community produce and new employee housing. 

“We went to Bangkok to study for this project. We are creating a low-density wellness destination,” said Broughton. “We’re really excited about this transformation and location because it involves historic preservation and the community.”

The Rowland + Broughton team recently completed a redesign of the Boettcher Seminar Building, built in 1973 by Bauhaus-trained architect and designer Herbert Bayer.  

Current projects outside Colorado include the Rusty Parrot Hotel in Jackson Hole, the Mossywoods Cabin on Orcas Island in Washington state, and a project in Washington’s wine-growing Walla Walla Region.

The Rowland + Broughton team recently completed a redesign of the Boettcher Seminar Building, built in 1973 by architect and designer Herbert Bayer. 
Brent Moss/Courtesy photo

“I live catty-corner to the property. This one was so special. We got a Landmark Designation to the Aspen Modern Inventory of Historic Structures. There was a complete rehabilitation with the original design and functionality at the core. I could really touch and feel this project every day,” said Broughton. 

Friday, she is moderating the “Architecture Lecture: Spirit of Place” with Chad Oppenheim – a Miami-based designer of hotels, residential towers, and office buildings worldwide – at Aspen Art Museum.

“Chad is a good friend of ours and a colleague. I just skied with him this week,” said Broughton. “I approached the Aspen Art Museum about Chad giving a lecture. It was a great fit. Clearly, there is a curiosity and thirst for this knowledge, as the 80-person event sold out.”

That carbon footprint

Broughton pointed out that building and construction is responsible for 40% of overall carbon emissions. 

“I find it fascinating that concrete is the most carbon-intensive material. I’m really looking into new sustainability and what is means to measure your carbon footprint,” she said. “That’s why I love working in Aspen. The city of Aspen reaches out to us for feedback on sustainability in building. And the clients are impressive.”

When it comes to Aspen homeowners and project designers, she said, her clients want to be pushed toward sustainability; they want to be on the leading edge.

“We have a responsibility. We are doing the most sustainable and efficient building and design as possible,” she said. “We aren’t asking.”