2020 AIA Housing Awards: Whidbey Farm by mwworks

Whidbey Farm

Architecture Firm(s): mwworks

Location: Whidbey Island, Washington

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


Built for a multi-generational family, the home respects both the woodlands and pastoral land, blending seamlessly into its surroundings and honoring the island’s longstanding tradition of protecting the land.

Perfectly balancing rustic and warm with simple and open, this home is a retreat and part-time residence for a multigenerational family with strong ties to Washington state’s Whidbey Island. It is tucked into the edge of a deeply forested hillside, above the family’s historic farm and its turn-of-the-century agricultural buildings and surrounded by stands of Douglas fir, hemlock, and Pacific madron trees. Respecting both the woodlands and pastoral land, it blends seamlessly into its surroundings and honors the island’s longstanding tradition of protecting the land.

Throughout the design process, client meetings often involved the owners, their three adult children, and, sometimes, the owners’ teenage grandchildren. To accommodate summer cookouts, fishing expeditions, and family gatherings, the team designed the house to be both flexible and durable. Perfectly comfortable for just two people, it easily welcomes up to 20 in its four-bedroom main house and accompanying compact bunkhouse.

The home comprises a palette of naturally weathered woods, concrete, and locally sourced stone, ensuring little maintenance and continued beauty as the home ages. The interior includes a number of doors and pieces of wall art carved from solid cedar slabs crafted by one of the owners to create a deeper connection between the family’s past and future. The solid plank cedar master bedroom is an additional carving project for the owner, who also raises organic cattle and works the land below.

“This home is an enviable retreat,” wrote a juror. “It uses a limited material palette to create a cohesive site and building design that includes both massing and planes, and the details contribute to the whole. While many designs claim to connect interior and exterior, in this home, the two truly bleed into each other.”

On its site within the forest, the home’s discrete volumes are nestled among tall fir trees and wrap around a modest clearing. Great care was taken during the placement of each wing of the home to protect as many trees as possible, and, at the owner’s request, caring for the trees was prioritized over construction speed. The required treefall was kept on-site and used for lumber, fencing, and seasonal firewood for a fire pit that overlooks the farm.

This home is a beacon for gathering, strengthening bonds, and creating new memories. The owners have ensured that future generations can continue to do so. In a show of their appreciation for all involved, the owner had a custom bronze plaque fabricated with the names of every person who contributed significantly to the design and construction of the house.

Additional information

General Contractor: Dovetail General Contractors

Structural Engineer: PCS Structural Solutions

Landscape Design: Kenneth Philp Landscape Architects

Civil Engineer: Davido Consulting Group, Inc.


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

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