2020 AIA Housing Awards: Courtyard House by mwworks

Courtyard House

Architecture Firm(s): mwworks

Location: Seattle, Washington

Category: One- and two-family custom residences (category one)


Open and modern but deeply connected to the landscape, one of the owners observed the house calms him and promotes a greater appreciation for light and nature.

This home, which sits on a sloping site overlooking Seattle’s Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains beyond, accommodates the daily life of a family of four while intermingling the site’s natural elements. Open and modern but still deeply connected to the landscape, this single family house is a calm respite from the hustle and bustle of Seattle.

Free flowing spaces that connect with one another as well as the land prevailing theme throughout the space. Among the 3,500-square-foot home’s volumes, garden courts provide meditative moments between the active and living spaces. Its upper volume secures the bedroom spaces into the tree canopies, where daylight, privacy, and sweeping views are modulated through a series of delicate Alaskan yellow cedar slats. The house was designed to protect a number of significant trees, and an arborist aided the team in designing foundations and fences that protect key root systems.

“This home seems to capture and hold the cool light of the Pacific Northwest,” noted a juror. “The vegetation plays a significant role in the material palette, and the understated concrete and wood slide past each other creating a setting that appears quiet without being austere.”

Sitting on a double lot in an urban neighborhood, the house abuts another to the south and as a busy residential street to the north. The team lifted the grade to the east to allow for the landscape to screen the garage from the kitchen and living spaces. Additionally, the team fought the urge to place the upper volume closer to the view, opting instead to push it back to the west. In doing so, the masses better suit the neighborhood, and the lower volume’s planted roof becomes a green plane that provides the sense of being alone in a private garden above the street. At the street level, masses, hedges, and steel plate fences create privacy and protect outdoor living areas from the glare of headlights.

Designed for longevity and little maintenance, the house’s spaces were formed with clear rectangular solid volumes and concrete walls that accommodate ribbons of glass that slide in between when needed. The interplay of interior spaces and landscaped courtyards creates new experiences in each room. After just a few months of living in the house, one of the owners said that “the house has made me a better person,” noting that being in it calms him and promotes a greater appreciation for light and nature.

Additional information

General Contractor: Dowbuilt Structural

Engineer: PCS Structural Solutions

Civil Engineer: J Welch Engineering

Landscape Design: Wittman Estes

Interior Furnishings: Studio DIAA


Emily Roush-Elliott, AIA (Jury Chair), Delta Design Build Workshop, Greenwood, Mississippi

Valarie D. Franklin, AIA, NOMA, NCARB, Gresham Smith, Nashville, Tennessee

Michael E. Willis, FAIA, NOMA, Oakland, California

Guido Hartray, AIA, Marvel Architects, New York, New York

S. Claire Conroy, AIA Allied Member, SOLA Group Inc., Chicago, Illinois

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.