Text description provided by the architects. 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, Derrington Building Studio chose to embrace the 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 roots. The windows were carefully placed to maximize indirect light and views of the surrounding greenery, while also minimizing less desirable lines of sight.
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 in vertical bands within each dwelling to accentuate the height of each space and capture framed views. White-painted gypsum walls sit atop an exposed concrete retaining wall that submerges one house waist-deep into the site, creating a novel sense of privacy. This design choice also prevents the home from becoming an imposing structure which looms over the landscape. The white cement board exterior elevations are intended to be a clean backdrop to the organic and unrestrained vegetation on the site. 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.