Ferrous House- A Contemporary Dwelling Located in a Wooded Nature Preserve of Milwaukee

Designed by Johnsen Schmaling Architects, the Ferrous House sits in a row of unexceptional 1970?s ranches, part of a narrow subdivision hugging the edge of a wooded nature preserve west of Milwaukee. An existing dwelling that had fallen into serious disrepair was entirely gutted and stripped of its roof, but the limited construction budget required the reuse of the existing foundation, main perimeter walls, and plumbing cores. The Ferrous House is the careful, sustainable transformation of an obsolete existing home, a prototypically ill-conceived suburban production house 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 carefully reclaimed as the framework for a contemporary dwelling: a case study for a resource-conscious suburban renewal in a time of economic and ecological distress. The building’s simple rectangular volume is wrapped on three sides with a weathering steel rain screen, its warm color of ferrous corrosion echoing the hues of the derelict farm equipment left behind on the area’s abandoned pastures. In the back, the steel wrapper extends beyond the edge of the building and shelters the sides of a linear south-facing patio and a screen porch, which is accessible from the living hall through a fully retractable folding glass door system. In the summer, the living hall expands into the screen porch, transforming into the building’s “green lung” that draws in the cool breeze from the nearby woods and naturally conditions the house.

 

 

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