As the Dahlin Group set about deciding how to develop 1,196 acres near the historic mining town of Black Diamond, the first thing it settled was where the houses wouldn’t go. Significant stands of trees would never feel the axe, and knolls with views would remain scenic. Even interesting-looking tree snags would be spared.

Then Dahlin tucked three distinct villages with 4,800 homes around and beside these features, making them focal points and a source of personality for each village. Instead of fences or walls, the neighborhoods are defined, separated, and buffered from each other by these natural spaces.

Eleven miles of multipurpose trails make the community walkable as well as bicycle and equestrian-friendly. No home in the plan is more than a quarter mile away from a park, natural open-space area, or trail. “We want to create a community, not just a bunch of houses and different land uses,” says Lauri Moffet-Fehlberg, of Dahlin.

Merit Award

Category Site plan, more than 20 acres
Entrant/Architect/Land planner Dahlin Group Architecture Planning, Pleasanton, Calif.
Builder/Developer Yarrowbay Holdings, Kirkland, Wash.

The master plan’s town center buildings are suggestive of Black Diamond’s history as a mining town, with nods to architecture from the Rocky Mountain West and the Northwest. The Villages’ plan is based on Black Diamond’s 18-year-old land plan. “This community is really fulfilling the vision that the city had,” says Moffet-Fehlberg.