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History & Philosophy

Hands On. It’s an apt description. Hands on a pencil, sketching out the image of a building that doesn’t exist yet. Hands on a chisel, a plane, a clamp. A welding rod. Old school. No 3D printing, no maker-bots. I like to see the fingerprints of the sculptor in the finished piece, the smudges and eraser shavings on a pencil drawing.


What motivated me to become an architect was watching my cabinetmaker father in his study, drawing up the next kitchen he was going to build, then working in the shop and seeing that image turn into a physical reality. I thought it was fascinating to be a part of that process.  I just took that experience to the next level: designing whole structures.


I liken the various parts of a building to those of the human body.  Bones, skin, muscles, organs and circulatory systems. I like to expose all of the pieces and express the logic behind how they’re put together. I don’t design anything without knowing how it’s going to be built. It’s in my genes. Look through our portfolio of projects and you'll see many of the same themes repeated; the justaposition of different geometries,  articulation of multiple roof forms, and a straighforward expression of  the structure supporting it all.


Our work can be seen all over Teton County, perhaps where you’d least expect it. Public restrooms. HandsOn Design is responsible for the public restrooms built by the Parks and Recreation Department throughout the county, as well as the Housing Trust affordable homes on East Kelley Avenue. We’ve also designed corporate headquarters buildings in neighboring counties, historic ranch renovations and art galleries in the Town of Jackson, in addition to numerous private homes. We also design and fabricate more intimate items like furniture, fireplaces, doors and hardware. Scroll around and check out our work.


Paul Duncker, AIA

I received my architecture degree in New York City in 1985, my license in 1988.  Jackson Hole became home in 1995, and I established HandsOn Design in 1999. The size of the firm has ranged between one and five staff members, depending on our workload. The Great Recession dealt a siginificant blow to everyone in the construction industry, and we were no exception. We're still here, but staying purposely small. We take on one project at a time for the most part, and the principle of the firm does all of the design and project management, along with most of the drafting.  There's 30 years of experience in every pencil line and every keystroke.


In addition to my professional practice, I've served as a Teton County Planning Commissioner for 10 years while the county rewrote and implemented its Comprehensive Plan. Not every aspect of the final product is exactly the way I might have liked, but  it's a well though out consensus based plan and I'm proud to have been a part of it's creation.


Click on the link below to access some of the writings related to the process and my personal vision of the potential future development landscape of Teton County Wyoming (if you're so inclined.)

Awards and Publications



Wyoming AIA Award of Honor                      Red House                                         1999


AIA Center for Communities by Design    

Certificate of Recognition for Design Excellence In Affordable Green Housing                2005

- East Kelly Avenue Housing

Environmental Design and Construction Magazine- Excellence in Design            2007

- Alta House, Alta, WY




Architectural Record, "All in the Family"                                                       Sept.  1994

- custom cabinetry, Flatiron Residence, New York, NY 


Fine Homebuilding, "Red House,"                                                           Summer  2002

- annual "Houses" issue                                        


Fine Homebuilding, "Factory Built Houses"                                                    July  2004

- construction technologies                                


Builder, "Beyond the Box"                                                                              Fall   2004     

- SIPs panel construction                    


Building Products, "Panel Power"                                                          Jan/ Feb   2005          

- SIPs panel construction                                  


Residential Architect, "Mindful Choices"                                                  March   2005            - sustainable design   


Homestead, "In With the Old, Out With the New"                                    Spring   2004           - renovation and remodeling                                                                  


Homestead, "Elegant and Industrious"                                                    Spring  2005            - kitchen renovation                                                 


Homestead, "It's Easy Being Green"                                                     Spring    2006

- sustainable design          


JH Style, "Mountain Dreaming"                                                                    Fall 2015             - personal profile                 




Taunton Press, Built-In Furniture by Jim Tolpin                                                  1997            - stair cabinet/loft bed                                 


Taunton Press, Small Homes                                                                             2003

"Design Ideas for Great American Homes" series 


The Farmhouse, New Inspiration for the Classic American Home                     2004

- Jean Rehcamp Larson, Taunton Press,              


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