"I can't find anything in the senior realm that I'd consider dying in, let alone living in," says noted Seattle architect Gordon Walker. So, now in his 70s, he designed a small contemporary house for himself and his wife, Sandie Pope, on Orcas Island.

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GORDON WALKER puts his house where his mouth is.

“Change, in this case, starts with seniors,” says the noted Seattle architect, 72. “We’ve got to quit building the memory of what was.”

And, stepping confidently into the future, he has done exactly that, designing a “retirement home” on Orcas Island like you have never seen. A smaller but clearly contemporary home that suits him and his wife, Sandie Pope, 61 — an interesting and interested couple curious to see what life holds next for them.

“My mom is 94,” Walker says. “Her boyfriend’s 89, and she’s wondering what she’ll do after he dies.”

Walker’s making a point here about, well, the new old. Senior citizens who are wise, evolved, inquisitive; exercise-class fit; black-T-shirt-and-jeans fashionable; accomplished professionally. To put it simply, not even close to done living it up.

Walker has been a practicing architect since 1962. He worked for Ralph Anderson, cofounded Olson Walker Architects and was a principal at NBBJ. In 1992 he founded Walker Architects and is now a consulting principal at Mithun. Last year at the University of Washington he taught a design studio on modular student housing. He sees a void in senior housing for the design-minded. Calls most high-rises “parking garages for old people.”

“I can’t find anything in the senior realm that I’d consider dying in, let alone living in,” he has said.

The Walker-Pope home is modular and prefabricated, based on a 16-foot grid sized to fit on a flatbed truck. It sits on steel legs perched over the land, not scraped into it. It is made of stock materials: six-lam plywood for countertops, high-density fiberboard and vertical-grain fir doors on the walls. And contemporary; walls of glass, steel beams exposed, free of trim and molding, concrete floors.

The living room is on one end, the bedroom on the other, glass walls at both ends. In between are kitchen, prep kitchen, office/guest room, bathrooms and master. Forest on one end, meadow on the other.

“This is not a precious house.”

He says this while producing pasta in the kitchen. Everything a great cook needs is close at hand. Nothing more. Architect-son Colin feeds the dough into the pasta-maker. Gordon lays the flattened result on the counter. Together they drape fresh-cut spaghetti over a horizontal broomstick to dry. Gently. The trick to it, really, is to keep Jiggs and Lulu, the dogs, from eating it first.

But what Walker is really hungry for is innovation, efficiency, inspiration.

“I spent my whole life planning for others,” he says. “You begin to formulate at an older age what you might want to do. This house is on 10 acres in the woods overlooking the water. But it’s still 10 acres to be cared for.”

And so, there is another house in Gordon Walker’s future, a case-study project he envisions for the island.

“I’ve been looking at Eastsound,” he says. “Drew up a plan for four modular units in a condo group. They would be built simply, off-island, brought in in boxes. Each would be 900 square feet or under and between $350,000 and $375,000.”

Considered in the plan are the four C’s of nurturing design — the ability to: continue activities and relationships; compensate for disabilities (“Things just fall off when you get older.”); contribute in the community, such as in classes for art and exercising; and challenge the mind with a nearby library and, perhaps, museum.

Walker showed his idea around. The response was near freezing.

“So far, people don’t like them,” he says. “They say, ‘I want something I recognize.’

“The baby boomers are coming of age, and I always imagined that they were more design-minded than they turned out to be.”

Or they just haven’t caught up to Gordon Walker.

Rebecca Teagarden is associate editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.