University House is the official residence of the president of the University of Idaho. The home is also a unique entertaining venue for small groups. The home, completed in early 2019, is a beautiful transition from respite to entertaining, arboretum to educational space and university to community. The house is the university’s way of welcoming all Vandals home.
University House is the University of Idaho’s executive residence, used to house the president of the university and his/her family. The house is designed to provide both private living space and adequate room for entertaining.
University House was completed in March 2019, replacing the circa-1960s house that previously sat in its place. The house is 6,000 square feet of living space plus a three-bay garage.
- Demolition of former house began in Oct. 2017. Design-build contract was awarded to Golis Construction (Moscow) and zimmerraystudios (Seattle)
- Project Cost
- $1.95 million total project
- $1.46 million for construction
The prior house had private spaces and entertaining spaces intertwined in a way that made entertaining challenging and disrupted the privacy of the presidential family. The home was also dated and needed to be remodeled, at a minimum.
A plan to remodel the former house in 2013 was rejected due to cost. Another plan to rebuild the house began in 2014 but was stopped and restarted several times as cost estimates came in above the available means for funding the project. In 2016 the project was rebid as a design-build project and has successfully moved forward to completion.
The design-build construction concept allows the architects and the builder to work together from concept to completion in a unique partnership not found in traditional building projects. The result is strong collaboration as well as cost savings.
The dark exterior of University House is a modern design element popular across the country. The color allows the house to blend into the surrounding landscaping rather than stand out from it. The materials are also cost effective. Brick, which was commonplace in the early years of the university, is no longer the value it once was.
The side of University House facing south toward Nez Perce Drive is the back of the house. University House is oriented north, to allow those inside the home to enjoy the view of the arboretum and to look out over the beautiful U of I campus. The orientation of the home provides those inside with more privacy and helps the home blend in with the landscape.
The house will be a social space for executive-level entertaining. Small groups of eight to 12 can dine in a more formal fashion, or 40-50 can be accommodated in a reception-style event.
The home will be used for social events in Spring 2019 by reservation with the President’s Office. After the president moves in, the space will be used for presidential events. This is the president’s home.
- The foundation of old house was used for this house
- This influenced the floor plan and allowed for the beautiful gallery entry.
- The garage and fireplace are from the former house
- Fireplace is accented with black and steel, showcasing its beauty as a focal point of the large entertainment space.
- The second-floor chimney used to be external and has been incorporated into an open chimney extending through the second-floor balcony.
- These two features bookend the original design.
- The glulam beams on public stairs are repurposed beams from the former house.
- Black locust cut from backyard is being used as accent wood on the gallery shelves.
- Larch flooring in the upstairs was cut by the student logging crew from the U of I Experimental Forest.
- Open floorplan in center of house is a natural connection between the Shattuck Arboretum to the north and the Arboretum and Botanical Garden to the south.
- The siding carries through from outside to inside and together with the large dormer windows on the north side, provides a seamless transition from outside to inside.
- When the full vision for connection between academic mall and arboretum is complete, views from house will look out over campus and right down to the academic mall.
- Metal is a contemporary building feature used across the industry.
- Cost effective — brick is no longer a cheap product with which to build.
Robert Zimmer grew up a few blocks from the University of Idaho campus. He delivered the newspaper to the president’s house. Now, an accomplished architect, he is the creative mind behind the contemporary design that effectively meets both the private and entertaining needs of the president — all while meeting the conservative budget.