When a person spends as much time on a river as Rick Wright does, a passion for the natural world is bound to seep into every part of life. For Wright, his love of nature can be seen in how he lives, works and plays along the Deschutes River. Wright’s first experiences in the Cascade Mountains came as a sixth grader at summer camp—an experience he never forgot. Years later, Wright returned to Bend on a camping trip with his wife, and like so many visitors, they decided to make Bend their home.
“This was 1979, when the population of Bend was 15,000,” he says. “A lot has changed since then.”
Bend may have grown, but the Deschutes River is still a draw for Wright. As an avid whitewater kayaker, he often paddles the stretch between Sawyer Park and Tumalo State Park. As a long-time board member of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, he helps protect the river system. And through his architectural work, he creates beautiful custom homes that leave a lighter carbon footprint on the high desert environment. By design, Wright is helping build plans for future generations to enjoy the natural landscape of Central Oregon.
BRINGING THE OUTSIDE IN
Wright began integrating sustainable design into his homes early in his career as an architect and won his first sustainable design award in 1988. Today, his designs involve far more than passive solar heating and cooling by including sophisticated open floor plans and a unique use of natural materials and glass for year-round daylight.
“Livability is just as important as sustainability,” explains Wright.
Many of his clients’ properties look out toward the mountains or over the river, and Wright uses large glass doors and windows to maximize views and landscape features. Expansive glass ensures winter sunlight and warmth, a key to his signature style. Materials such as stone, wood, and iron also create connection, flowing from outdoor living spaces to interior rooms. Wright’s designs have won three Best in Show awards in the annual COBA Tour of Homes, and he was also named Central Oregon Designer of the Year in 2016.
SUSTAINING THE HEALTH OF THE DESCHUTES RIVER
Wright joined the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council (UDWC) Board of Directors in 2008. A decade later he’s still committed to the organization and now serves as Board president. The UDWC takes an active approach to protecting the river—one that Wright fully appreciates. They work on three intertwined aspects of river protection: restoring river habitat, monitoring restored areas and educating the next generation of river stewards.
“We emphasize action over advocacy,” Wright says, “and it’s a very effective approach.”
While restoration and monitoring are critical to the UDWC mission, Wright especially values the education. Local kids connect to their hometown waters, including smaller creeks that flow into the Deschutes. Students get hands-on experience in river ecology, and use art, music, science, and writing to express that connection. Wright’s favorite UDWC event is Upstream, an annual fundraiser for the education program. The evening features presentations of students’ creative work from the past year. Wright has seen the impact of a growing population on the health of the Deschutes, from the crowds of rafters on hot summer days to the piles of trash along the banks. He points to a new campaign that aims to involve more of the community in protecting the river’s health: The Enjoy Protect Respect Project. This multi-partner effort offers tips on how every river user can keep the river clean and healthy, and opportunities to get involved.
Rick Wright’s impact on the health of the river will be long-lasting, and his architectural signature on the landscape of Central Oregon will remain long term. Whether supporting conservation efforts or designing low-energy homes, his work is helping to shape a more sustainable future where the next generation can enjoy playing along the Deschutes just as much as he does.
Occupation: Custom Home Design Professional, Wright Design Studio
Interests: Whitewater kayaking, canoeing, snowboarding, hiking, bird watching, camping and adventure traveling with family. Rick is a fourth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do
–President, Board of Directors, Upper Deschutes Watershed Council
–Board Member, Downtown Bend Business Association
–Mentor and Volunteer, OSU and Bend-La Pine Schools
Where: Ghost Tree Lane, Pronghorn Resort
Home Designer: Rick Wright
Builder: Mission Statement Homes
Photography: Zachary Bascom
Nestled into the high desert landscape at Pronghorn Resort, this home features contemporary lines and thoughtful positioning to maximize panoramic views. Outdoor living spaces extend the home for entertaining or relaxing, and encourage connection to the landscape beyond. Expansive use of glass illustrates Wright's design philosophy of "outside in and inside out."