This is a house where two physicians can retreat from their high stress lives, recharge, and raise their young children. Both are athletes –she’s a swimmer, he’s a golfer and basketballer. Both are required to work from home at times. This is a site specific house designed to mediate between its suburban neighborhood and the wild Ozark hillside that preceded it.
In some ways, this site offers a familiar narrative of Northwest Arkansas, but in extremis. An upscale, gated suburban development surrounding an exclusive golf course, carved out of the undisturbed Ozark hills and valleys located at the nexus of the surrounding established cities and towns. The views from the hilltops reveal the old farms, quarries and salvage yards, and the new interstate highway exit draped with its commercial development. The views on the streets of the surrounding houses are more generic, with buildings and landscapes alike rendered in the ubiquitous mishmash style seen all over the US today. When we first visited our site, it was the 2 acre wild remnant between the professionally maintained monoculture of the adjacent suburban tracts of today’s prosperity. Mature white oaks and hickory shelter an understory of native plants that abruptly give way to conformity required by codified covenants. Through the woods to the north, the golf course lay out of view in the valley below, and a gap in the trees provided a framed view of the agrarian past in the old white farmhouse on the ridge beyond.
We wanted the architecture of the house to serve as the mediator between the suburban neighborhood and the valley to the north. The paved driveway to a garage and developer specified mailbox couldn’t be avoided, but in contrast with its neighbors, this house is designed to conform to the slope of the land, address its solar orientation for the benefit of its inhabitants, and allow ample daylight while controlling views in and out.
One leaves the cul-de-sac and descends the hill to the porte-cochere and the entry. Upon entering the house, a sequence of turns separates one completely from the suburban context and reveals the living spaces extending out into the room defined by the woods beyond.
The house is organized around a splayed courtyard, which extends the living areas outside onto the pool terrace and the porch, and separates the master wing of the house from the kids and guests. The master suite forms the west side of the courtyard, and includes the owners’ home offices in an antechamber which can be adjusted to be more or less private as necessary for working from home.
The main circulation paths within the house terminate visually outside the building, focused axially on specific trees. The vertical circulation occupies the “knuckle” between the two level volume and the single story portion, and extends out under the tall back porch. The upper floor houses the kids’ rooms and their shared space, and a guest suite. Below them are service spaces and a living area designed to serve the courtyard, pool and spa, and evolve into a space for future teens to hang out. Exercise and entertainment spaces occupy the spaces above the garage.