The Lodge at Autumn Willow is an affordable senior housing community designed to minimize its impact on the adjacent natural environment while providing a uniquely immersive experience of living within the woods. The building sits on the top of a steady slope with pedestrian trails accessing a stream called Little Rocky Run at the bottom of the valley to the south with a public park to the north. Surrounded by existing developments of Fairfax County in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., the site itself, which was owned by the county, was largely untouched. In early 2020, the area was presented by the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development in a public request for proposals for a public/private partnership to develop the site as an affordable senior housing community. The team, led by The Michaels Organization and KTGY, was selected to design the building in mid-2020.
Following the high-profile public procurement process, the design team implemented a comprehensive community outreach strategy as a subset of the entitlement and discretionary design approval process. Knowing that affordable housing development often faces additional public scrutiny and that the site is close to the border of two different Fairfax County districts, the design team met virtually with both the Springfield Land Use Committee as well as the Sully District Land Use and Transportation Committee multiple times throughout the entitlement process. In addition, the design team reached out to 11 different nearby homeowners associations that surrounded the site, with presentations given to the six that requested them. The design team implemented feedback and recommendations from the two land-use committees and the HOAs, which ultimately garnered favorable reports from the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
The Lodge at Autumn Willow features a low-impact, two-story building design that harmoniously integrates into the site and the adjacent neighborhood. Inspired by the site’s beautiful, wooded qualities, the team proposed National Park Lodge inspired architecture adapted to the residential program. The building form is a simple, asymmetrical “H-shaped” building that follows the topographic contours to minimize the built presence and limit unnecessary site interventions. It occupies a small percentage of the overall property, leaving most of the site in its undisturbed natural state.
The east-west-oriented section is a central, transparent amenity space that connects the entry plaza visually to the wooded rear courtyard and south stream valley framed by a colonnade on both sides. The exposed columns and crosslaminated timber (CLT) roof/ceiling recall the lodge-like architectural character in a modern application.
The two north-south wings containing the residential units follow the site topography and create a small front arrival court and a large rear court. This also maximizes the preservation of the existing trees. The residential wings adopt a more solid and opaque expression, with glassier bay projections articulating building corners and breaking up the building roof line. A dark masonry base anchors the building to the site, with a lighter wood-like batten and board cladding articulating the building above.
The central, south-facing courtyard takes advantage of the ideal solar orientation for the building and creates an immersive perspective within the natural woodlands. The surface parking aligns with the building to minimize its site impact and maximizes the natural buffer along the edges. The building has a stealthy design that will always be perceived through the filter of existing and new trees and vegetation. In many ways, the building is designed to blend into its surroundings from outside the site to minimize its impact. However, it will sparkle as the future senior residents and their guests enter the site and experience the community nestled in and amongst the trees.
Owner: The Michaels Organization
Architect | Planner: KTGY
Interior Design: dash design
Civil | Landscape Architect: Gordon
62+ Affordable Apartments
Density: 6.9 du/ac
Unit Plan Sizes: 696 – 1,163 sq. ft.
Independent Living Units: 150 du
Site Area: 20.53 ac
Number of Stories: 2 + basement
Parking: 164 spaces