The Summit House at Balsam Mountain | AIA Atlanta
Merit Award

The Summit House at Balsam Mountain

  • Year: 2023
  • Entry Categories: Restaurant – New Construction

The Summit House at Balsam Mountain

Balsam Mountain Preserve is a completely reimagined private club community in Sylva, N.C. When Balsam Mountain was developed in the early 2000s, plans called for a signature Arnold Palmer-designed course in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, equestrian center, pool/fitness center and overall focus on conservation considering more than 3,000 of the 4,500 acres were set aside as conservation easement.

After Balsam Mountain fell into financial troubles several years ago and changed owners, the new group kept the eco-development mindset but embraced an entirely new vision for the club’s future amenities/lifestyle after consulting our firm and land planner. Indeed, rather than borrowing yet another blueprint from traditional clubhouse design, our firm conceived a contrarian clubhouse design inspired by the property’s pristine mining history roots.

The innovative end result is a cluster of connected cottages and buildings called Doubletop Village that now serves as Balsam Mountain’s new “clubhouse” facility. The buildings are arranged as rural industrial structures constructed over time and recently renovated for our purpose – all organized around outdoor spaces with striking views of the surrounding Double Top mountains and newly designed Palmer Practice Park that goes with the club’s championship layout.

Among the popular new creative clubhouse attractions are Summit House restaurant and the Mine Tavern, featuring indoor-outdoor spaces that open to a shared courtyard of natural landscape with an outdoor fireplace and regional craft beers on tap. If anything, Balsam Mountain epitomizes the future of clubhouse design, where integrated outdoor courtyards, terraces, and lawns effectively replace and become the “lobbies and corridors” of the traditional large clubhouse structures of old.

The site overlooking the practice park, golf course, and the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond gave the firm design the inspiration it needed for the clubhouse. To thoroughly enjoy the mountains, one has to appreciate the outdoors and focus on the views in tandem with the experience within.

To achieve this new sense of place, the team “blew up” the clubhouse into multiple structures, leaving an outdoor courtyard of boulders, native plants and an outdoor fireplace in place of the traditional lobby. Around this courtyard are the other club components that efficiently serve the golf functions as well as provide attractive gathering spaces for members and guess.

To further enhance the viewscapes and spaces, these elements are scaled to allow them to expand and contract by opening and closing movable glass walls to the dining porch and indoor/outdoor bar. The first building houses the Summit House restaurant with its wine cellar and tasting room, and the General Store, which functions as the pro shop.
Meanwhile, the second structure houses the Mine Tavern bar, administration, and locker rooms. Together these spaces have become the new center of energy for the club community, places where resident members can enjoy an entire day.

  • FirmKuo Diedrich Chi Architects
  • Project LocationSylva, North Carolina
  • Completion DateOctober 1, 2020
  • OwnerBalsam Mountain Preserve
  • Architects and Designers Architecture:
    Mark A. Diedrich, AIA
    Chris J. Rijo

    Interior Design:
    Alchemy Design Studio
  • MEP EngineerMolnar Jordan & Associates, Inc.
  • Structural EngineerPEC Structural Engineers
  • Landscape ArchitectVision Design Collaborative
  • General ContractorVannoy Construction
  • Additional ConsultantsCamacho Food Service Design & Consulting
  • PhotographyPaul Dyer