2024 RDAA | Custom Urban House | Meadow House | Waechter Architecture

“I love this little courtyard house,” said one of our jurors. “It’s a different scale and feels somewhat attainable.” Situated within Eugene, Oregon’s urban grid, its design thoughtfully addresses an adjacent public meadow, the rainy Northwest climate, and the homeowner’s wish for a low-maintenance dwelling. Chief among them was the meadow, whose “big beauty” called for a house that has presence but also blends into the natural surroundings. Ben Waechter, FAIA, and his team accomplished this with a squarish house wrapped entirely in Bonderized standing-seam metal, “as if carved from a single material,” he says. Its four pavilions anchor each corner across glass connectors, forming a porous square around an interior native grass courtyard. 

Upon entering the house, its shift from park scale to human scale comes as a surprise. Outside it reads as a monolithic flat-roofed, story-and-a-half structure, but along the inner courtyard the cantilevered rooflines pitch down, delivering rainwater to the central garden. This move serves two purposes. “There’s the practical thing of pitching the roof to the inside and directing all the rain to the garden, but also from a form perspective, the interior courtyard has a more intimate scale because the eaves line is so much lower,” Ben says. “The house doesn’t have gutters, so the move is really simple and low maintenance. It’s practical but also spatially feels good to occupy.”

The judges agreed. “It seems like it would be stunning to be in,” one said. Visitors enter through a gate on the north between the one-car garage and the entry/kitchen pavilion, which contains a mudroom/laundry, powder room, kitchen, and pantry. Abutting it on the southeast is a full-glass dining room and lounge breezeway that connects to a third solid pavilion housing two guest bedrooms and a bath. A 90-degree turn takes you to the second glassy space—the living room—and then to the enclosed primary suite on the southwest corner. Completing the rotation, an open terrace between the bedroom and garage faces both the larger preserve and the interior meadow. Materials are modest but durable and keep the focus on the courtyard: slab-on-grade terraces, white oak floors and quartersawn white oak cabinetry, quartz-composite countertops, Sheetrock walls, tiled baths, and aluminum-clad wood windows. 

Our jury admired the responsive design, offering special praise for its environmental fit. “The outdoor covered space as one edge of the courtyard is such a great move,” a judge observed. “It’s a very appropriate house for Oregon for the spaces provided and the amount of rain they get, and the idea that you’re channeling water into the meadow. It’s doing a lot with a little.”

Custom Urban House

Waechter Architecture

Eugene, Oregon

Meadow House

Architect: Ben Waechter, FAIA, principal in charge; Lisa Kuhnhausen, project architect, Waechter Architecture, Portland, Oregon

Builder: Chalus Construction, Eugene, Oregon

Structural engineer: Grummel Engineering, Portland, Oregon

Project size: 2,000 square feet

Site size: 0.22 acre

Construction cost: Withheld

Photography: Lara Swimmer Photography

Dishwasher: Miele

Doors/Windows: Sierra Pacific

Faucets: MGS Taps, Watermark

Lighting: WAC, Foscarini, Artemide, Kuzco

Paint: Benjamin Moore

Range/Range Hood: Miele

Recessed roller shades: Lutron

Refrigerator: Blomberg

Showerheads: Watermark

Sinks: Kraus, Duravit

Toilet: Duravit Starck

Tub: Blu Bathworks

Washer/dryer: Samsung