Housing Northwest Arkansas Initiative

Bentonville AR | Unbuilt 


A collaboration with Fletcher Studio, the Housing Northwest Arkansas was a conceptual design for a mixed-use community with linear parks around a rehabilitated creek in Bentonville, Arkansas.

David Baker Architects was one of 25 design firms invited to submit competition entries for the Housing Northwest Arkansas Initiative. The competition called for a mixed-use attainable housing plan on a site in Bentonville, Arkansas, and was part of an initiative launched in collaboration with the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

David Baker Architects worked collaboratively with Fletcher Studio Landscape Architects to create a comprehensive plan set against a woven network of bold linear parks and fine-grained pedestrian network oriented towards a rehabilitated creek to set the framework for an innovative mixed-use community.

At the south edge, we’re framing the site with the Big Elbow, a large, long building fronting the denser neighborhood with the museum extension and commercial lots poised for redevelopment. With this strong edge we are designing to the future, celebrating density, and bringing life to the street.

In the sheltering arm of the Big Elbow, an eclectic village of smaller homes reflects the surrounding residential tone: Low-scale rows of walk-ups—dotted with stoops and roof decks—line shared outdoor spaces. On the reclaimed site to the north, we adapt the warehouse building to provide flexible live-work spaces for artists.

Together, these housing types provide livable density for a range of households, creating a visually and social diverse community.

Prioritizing people, the community offers a lively ground floor, varied connections from portals to stoops, and a generous streetscape that sets a new precedent for this area.

Parking is distributed through the site in Park Gardens, intimate shared streets that accommodate cars and creative landscaping. Small community spaces are distributed throughout, particularly along the edges of the enlivened creek. 

This creative scheme is rooted in practicality: We take advantage of construction efficiencies by building inexpensive walk-up apartments and consolidating shared vertical infrastructure, like the stair towers and the elevator, in the Big Elbow. The Park Gardens handle surface parking with economy and fair.

During initial fact finding stages we explored the unique history of Bentonville and the Ozarks Region generally, paying particular attention to regional ecology, geology, and the history of Benton and Benton County. Te region’s history in apple orchards and karst geology served as particularly strong inspirations for the landscape design. The architecture of the housing units created a series of linear spaces that in turn provides an opportunity to explore different methods to meet the creek and distribute programmatic elements.

We studied and honed a landscape approach that integrates with the architecture, exploring a variety of linear landscape strategies, playing with different combinations of plantings, hardscapes, and program to see how different arrangements worked to connect residents with each other and with a renewed, vibrant creek space. The approach combines different methods of creating spaces that feel sinuous and connected while still providing shade and ample room for community gathering. In particular, we focused on how the different plaza spaces would meet the creek, connect with each other, or fall away to the creek.

Our team also studied how water can move through areas with karst geology. We recognized this as an opportunity to carve spaces and make room for water and plantings in such a way that built and natural environments aren’t only adjacent, but stitched together in ways that acknowledge some places that cede to nature and others that embrace human impact.

Overall, our design process drew from architecture, history, and organizational concepts from the local environment to create a cogent landscape that affords spaces for a variety of programs while bringing people respite and shade, proximity to natural spaces, and social amenities to create a vibrant, sustainable and locally responsive design.

Project Details

Project Number


Bentonville, AR
United States



David Baker Architects
Landscape Architect
Fletcher Studio


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