The Highland Parks community sits along a ridge in central Oregon's high alpine desert. The sloping site dips east, where a verdant valley gives way to remote scenes of the Ochoco National Forest's mountain majesty. Architect Joel Severud found ways to take advantage of the hillside locale for big-picture land planning as well as for the details of individual homes. Developer Steve Robertson of Pennbrook Homes has worked with Weinstein A|U on several projects and knows they share common ideals. “We both look to evolve a community based on embracing what we have to work with, like topography, existing landscaping, and solar orientation,” he says.

Severud used a view corridor study, based on desired density and exact slopes, to position each house for “at least one dramatic view from a primary living area.” Working with the topography also led to single-loaded streets with pedestrian entrances on the high side and the requisite two-car garage on the downward slope. The buried garage plan gussied up the homes' elevations on all four sides. “It allows for a smaller footprint on the land,” says Robertson. “Plus, it makes the garage larger than a normal garage, but you don't really experience it from the main levels of the house or the exterior, so you get the best of both worlds.”

Turning the houses perpendicular to the street created room to spread living spaces along southern elevations. “Instead of the typical front yard/back yard relationship, we rotated houses and pushed them back against [the] northern lot line to maximize solar gain,” says Severud. Securing permission from local authorities for zero lot lines increased the distance between buildings to around 35 feet, which was enough to get sunlight deep into the houses. Because of the sloped sites, living areas step down about two feet and kitchens peer over neighbors to those beautiful vistas beyond. Severud's thoughtful plan also saved a majority of the 500- to 1,000-year-old Juniper pines that dotted the hillside.

project: Highland Parks, Eagle Crest Resort, Bend, Ore.
architect: Weinstein A|U, Seattle—principal-in-charge: Ed Weinstein, FAIA; project manager: Joel Severud; project architect: Tim Myhr, AIA
developer/builder: Pennbrook Homes, Bend, Ore.
project size: 1,842 square feet to 2,034 square feet per unit
total units: 41
site size: 11 acres
construction cost: Not available
sales price: Currently around $600,000 per unit
photography: Phil Wise, except where noted