Leafy urban enclaves are prime real estate, and seclusion adds bonus value. This 3-acre community of 22 homes sits across a private bridge in a wooded hollow, and it takes a big-house approach to disguising density. “The idea was that this would be a lock-and-leave community for people downsizing out of the adjacent high-end neighborhoods, or a launch point for living elsewhere,” says architect Paul Brow. “Residents retain the privacy they’re used to, while enjoying centralized services such as a gardener and gated security.”

The detached houses ring a central park and live graciously on their tiny plots. Butler Brothers positioned all the public rooms around two private outdoor spaces—an upper-level terrace with a vaulted ceiling, and a courtyard garden with a fountain or pool. “The trick is to design C-shaped, U-shaped, or L-shaped houses only one room deep, so they wrap around,” Brow says. The homes are an urban riff on Louisiana plantation architecture, stacked three stories tall. Exteriors are composed of hand-molded clay brick, white stucco, flagstone, and a thick composite siding that simulates cypress. High ceilings, large windows, and transoms pass light from room to room. Audubon Hollow’s careful site scheme also dispels any sense of confinement with brick-paved streets that extend the central park from building face to building face across the 104-foot-wide median.

Our judges praised the rich palette of spaces, materials and volumes. “It looks like a mansion,” a judge said. “I like the density they’ve been able to achieve, while disguising it.”

Getting It Done

Audubon Hollow’s winding driveway crosses a natural ravine, part of the regional flood control network, via a 32-foot-long arched metal bridge. Engineers designed a complex retaining wall system of mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) to raise the land out of the floodplain and establish flat home sites. To mitigate storm water, 3 12-foot-diameter perforated metal storage pipes, 200 feet long, are buried under the street and central park. They hold rainwater and slowly release it into the ravine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Houston, TX.