Burnside Residence

Portland, Oregon

This project’s site was somewhat overlooked for development for a few reasons: its location on a busy arterial street; one third of the property being an unbuildable slope; and the presence of a majestic 100 year old fir tree loomed above a quarter of the site. What’s not to love? The design seeks to reveal the sites more positive inherent value – its perch over the 27-acre historic Laurelhurst Park, a beloved oasis in the city of Portland, with panoramic views from sunrise to sunset.

The L-shaped house plan surrounds the iconic Fir tree. Each level of the house has a distinct outdoor space and orientation – the north entry court, south garden, south and west terraces – aimed to enjoy the temperate climate and extend the living space. In recognition of the family’s evolving needs, the design program included: family living spaces, a place to host large gatherings, an architectural studio, and a private apartment. As needs change over time, the apartment reconfigures to create a secondary living space, guest suite or independent living unit.

Using the concept of ‘Piano Nobile’, a design configuration elevating the principal living space above the street to the 2nd floor, the layout capitalizes on the southern site views and mitigates the challenges of the city street. Like a nautilus shell, the circulation of the house spirals from the 1st through 3rd floor from public to increasingly private spaces. A laurel hedge, surrounding the entry courtyard and porch, creates a transitional threshold from the street to the public realm of the house – entry foyer, design studio, and first floor apartment. On the 2nd floor, the primary living space is focused on one significant room in which to live, cook, entertain, and enjoy the expansive park view. The 3rd floor private realm is the master suite, a retreat from the busy life below.