Alchemy Architects, home of the weeHouse | Ardo
The owner is a concert violinist with a one-year-old son. In 2002, she requested a retreat costing $45 -$50k that valued poetry over commodity. In 2002, the final cost came to about $57,000 including all interior furnishings, decks, and outhouse. The architects produced the cabin with a team of 4 people in two months using prefabrication in a warehouse as a way to control the process, and keep costs low (and because it seemed like it would be fun!)
• Literal siting of the house in a cornfield inspired image of house as farm detritus.
• The house made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House in the Big Woods is only a few miles from the site, and is very similar in size to this house.
• The siting as chosen by the owner occupies a thin band of “greenery” between sections of cornfield. It is as two-sided condition: to the southwest is the tree line and shaded ravine; to the northeast is the crown of the plateau – a false horizon that provides both privacy and a sense of expansiveness.
• The interior / exterior surface treatments create a locus, but implies continuity in the landscape.
• The house was fabricated offsite in a warehouse in the dead of winter (Jan/Feb) for installation on site 1-3/4 hours away. The project was partially driven by the idea that a house that could arrive on-site 100% complete would have significant advantages over site-built or even partially prefabricated work. A steel frame provided rigidity and an effective means to bolt the prefabricated porch to the main house onsite.
• The exterior sheathing is cementitious panel painted with a latex paint imbedded with iron grit and oxidized to form a natural weathering layer.
• The house is a working example that 14’ wide & 10’ high dimensions (roadway shipping limitations) need not be limiting in providing a high-end housing solution.
Constraints of the budget led to evaluation of many assumptions about what makes a dwelling. The result has proven to be a non-exclusive symbol of accessible architecture for a wide range of people and project types. The success of this project inspired the architect to use it as a platform to design, develop, produce, and market a wide range of small, prefabricated houses with attainable budgets.
Details / Cost Control
• The height and width of the house were determined from the maximum roadway size limitations and to make best use of the materials and stock doors.
• Windows are efficient, economical, Andersen 8’x8’ sliding patio doors that flush out with the ceiling and walls on all sides to emphasize the shell tube-like enclosure.
• Siding is cementitious panels in lieu of steel for cost, fabrication, and ecological reasons.
• Douglas Fir flooring on all surfaces was used straight from the mill un-sanded.
• IKEA cabinetry was used off-the-shelf and adapted as needed to keep costs low.
• Ebonized oak ply shelves and fin wall, bed frames, translucent bookcase that separates the two beds, stair, rolling under-bed storage, were all fabricated in the architects’ shop.
• The cabin was rough-wired for future service, although site is currently off the grid.
• The outhouse was fabricated from leftover house materials. A composting toilet may be inserted under the bunked bed in the future if needed.
Location: Pepin, Wisconsin, USA
Architect: Alchemy Architects, home of the weeHouse®