Woodland is a small residential community nestled among a grove of large trees in a neighborhood that is just minutes outside of downtown Austin, Texas. The development started with a simple program of four houses, but quickly became complex through the site’s general conditions and restrictions. Unusual property lines, a steep bluff, and an abundance of old-growth trees squeezed the buildable area for the project. This, in turn, presented privacy and view concerns given the close proximity of each house to the surrounding trees, as well as one other. Along with these issues, permitting violations from a previous owner had to be overcome.
Rather than seeing these challenges as problematic, the design team chose to embrace these issues and allowed the constraints to influence the design. The result produced a unique experience that provides both ample space, and a sense of privacy for each dwelling, while weaving between the trees and their root systems. The windows were carefully placed to maximize indirect light and views of the surrounding greenery, while also minimizing less desirable lines of sight.
The development forms a unified and intriguing community of dwellings that create a backdrop for the surrounding trees, while also utilizing them to offer a wooded reprieve from a busy city life. The material palette for the project was selected based on a simple aesthetic and an appreciation of economy and durability. Tall, pre-manufactured windows are arranged vertically within each dwelling to accentuate the height of each space and to capture framed views. Due to the topography, different homes utilize different foundation types. Some homes use elevated pier and beam systems, perching the massing on at a hilltop, overlooking the trees. Others depress into the earth, allowing the opportunity to expose concrete retaining walls. The modest, white exterior elevations are intended to be a clean backdrop to the organic and unrestrained vegetation on the site. The color palette makes them modern, but the combination of board/batten and lapped siding roots the project in the vernacular of old Austin.