This seven-acre residential development situated along a steep forested slope overlooking the Howe Sound was designed between 1979 and 1982 by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander in partnership with architects Arthur Erickson and Eva Matsuzaki. Prior to development, a comprehensive site inventory was performed, resulting in the placement of homes near existing trees and close to a central, narrow road, thus reducing the need to remove trees and understory. Nestled among dense foliage, the twenty homes, designed by Erickson with Matsuzaki, become increasingly vertical as they ascend the slopes, preserving the viewshed of the Howe Sound by responding to the site’s existing topography. Melding land with structure, the wooden residences are elevated on timber stilts that allow mature trees to grow, unimpeded beneath them. Further subsuming the architecture are rooftop gardens filled with regional flora. Rock outcroppings, canvased with moss and wildflowers, were left unexcavated to serve as natural barriers between properties, while rhododendrons and other native species were planted to limit disruption and heal the landscape post-construction. Connecting the individual homes is the well-shaded, curvilinear road, Montiverdi Place, laid out by Oberlander.
A curving entrance, half-hidden by a median containing boulders and early-successional plantings, sets the stage for Oberlander’s work seamlessly blending natural and constructed elements that are soon to be revealed. Reminiscent of the road system she implemented in the Cherokee Apartments in Philadelphia during the 1950s, Montiverdi Place conforms to the natural terrain, growing narrower as it ascends a sharp incline, thus reducing the need for unnecessary grading. Making its way among established copses of firs and maples, the curbed road contains several eye-shaped islands densely planted with native vegetation, further integrating the road with the surrounding landscape. Ultimately Montiverdi Place terminates at a narrow, earthen fire lane that also serves as a woodland walk, passing through a dense understory of ferns and decomposing trees, dotted with massive boulders and rock outcroppings before ultimately terminating in an adjacent cul-de-sac.