A Cedar-Draped Retreat Amplifies the Fragrant High Desert in Oregon

A Cedar-Draped Retreat Amplifies the Fragrant High Desert in Oregon

By Kathryn M.
Presented by Real Cedar
The abstract design by Hacker Architects frames the aromatic landscape with shifting planes and contrasting wood tones.

Central Oregon’s high desert region is a fascinating volcanic landscape bordered by jagged mountains and enormous flows of old lava. The area’s largest city, Bend, is also the site of a contemporary weekend escape designed by Portland–based Hacker Architects. Amidst the aromatic surroundings of manzanita and big sagebrush, the camouflaged structure pulls the outside in with extensive glazing, cleverly arranged views, and the ambiance of a cedar-clad interior. 

The AIA-award-winning High Desert Residence by Hacker Architects recedes into its moody surroundings just outside of Bend, Oregon. Western Red Cedar, a regional material found only in the Pacific Northwest of North America, is stained a warm grey along the facade.

Inside, clear-coated cedar dominates the walls and ceilings while seamlessly extending along deep exterior overhangs as well. Continuously running floors and full-height windows also enhance the home’s connection with the outdoors.

"Our concept was about using different forms to edit and frame views of the landscape, so that the homeowners can become more aware of and connected to nature," says Corey Martin, a principal at Hacker. "The house is essentially a shell surrounded by a series of shifting planes that occur at different points in distance. Depending on the interior vantage point, sometimes the planes occur beyond the walls of the home, creating an indoor-outdoor sense of enclosure."

A series of exterior wall planes draw the eye outward and frame views beyond the glass walls. On this feature, Corey adds, "The interior of the kitchen and living areas actually feel larger and more connected to the outdoors."

"The forms break down and edit the surrounding landscape so that different parts can be considered individually. For instance, some sections frame just the sky, others just the sagebrush."

Yet, for Corey, the decision to choose Western Red Cedar was also personal. "I took a break from architecture at one point to be an artist, and during that time, I mostly carved wood," he explains. "I developed this really special relationship with cedar and discovered all of its amazing qualities—especially the grain and the way that it would carve. It was very profound. There's also something about it being regional material that draws me, and then there’s the fact that it's extremely durable, long-lasting, and beautiful all at the same time."

Back inside, the glass-enclosed living room is grounded by a central fireplace. "When we started designing this project, we always had cedar in mind," says Corey. "It wasn't like, ‘Oh, it could be metal or oak. Instead, it was, ‘this is a cedar box; we're carving it out.’ "

"Being totally immersed in a wood space connects us with this biophilic response to nature and natural materials," says Corey. "Architects and designers can use modern, minimal forms and still add a really warm material. Then, the result is more than just the simple lines of a space, it’s the deeper feeling of being connected with something bigger."

"Oftentimes I conceptually think about a building as being carved from the land," Corey continues. "In that sense, the interior of this home appears freshly cut and the exterior reads as weathered to express the idea that it was carved into by us to create the space. It’s the process of carving when I was doing art that I now bring to architecture. I think about space as being removed from a solid thing versus a series of objects placed."

The Bend area also experiences dramatic daily temperature swings: a hot summer day can transition to below freezing at night. Cedar cladding provided the durability needed for such conditions.

As an eco-friendly and sustainably harvested product, the use of Western Red Cedar also supports efforts to regenerate natural landscapes and mitigate climate change. For every Western Red Cedar harvested at least three are replanted, and the manufacturing process produces less carbon emissions than other materials, such as brick, concrete, or composites.

"Because of the temperature changes, the home itself creates this aromatic atmosphere," adds Corey. "The sun hits it and you can smell the cedar. It's pretty awesome."

For more information about Western Red Cedar, please visit realcedar.com

Project Credits:

Architect: Hacker Architects / @hackerarchitects 

General Contractor: Kirby Nagelhout Construction


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