Designer(s): Johnsen Schmaling Architects, United States
Category: , Professional
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The Ferrous House is the careful, sustainable reinvention of a prototypically ill-conceived suburban production home at the end of its life cycle. This project challenges the ordinary but environmentally irresponsible tabula rasa approach – tear down and build bigger – and offers a sensible alternative, illustrating how the bones of a dysfunctional building can be reclaimed as the framework for a contemporary, precisely detailed dwelling – a case study for a resource-conscious suburban renewal in a time of economic and ecological distress. The severely limited construction budget commanded the reuse of major elements of the existing building, including the foundations, main perimeter walls, and plumbing stacks. The interior was gutted and re-organized to create open, interconnected spaces. Linear cedar-clad storage boxes, containing built-in closet systems and living room cabinetry, cantilever over the edge of the building and add desperately needed square footage without altering the original footprint of the house. A new shed roof, supported by a filigree of exposed metal and wood trusses, adds height to the living spaces and allows northern light to wash the inside of the house through a long band of translucent, aerogel-filled polycarbonate glazing. At night, the window band radiates its warm light into the distance, subtly evoking the iconic clerestory glow of the dairy barns that once dotted the region. In a carefully choreographed new entry sequence, wide exterior stairs run along the front of the house and lead up to a small glazed porch. From here, stairs weave through the house and terminate in a small observatory above the new roof plane. The building’s simple rectangular volume is wrapped on three sides with a weathering steel rainscreen, its warm color of ferrous corrosion echoing the hues of the derelict farm equipment left behind on the area’s abandoned pastures.
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