The 2011 AIA awards for housing were just announced, and one standout is a clever home in Wisconsin that has taken cues from the architecture of local barns. The Blair Barn House' updates the traditional typology with a modern twist through the playful use of materials, space and shape. Happily, Alchemy Architects was not content with just looks -- the solar heated home is highly energy efficient and endowed with locally sourced and salvaged materials.
The house in Blair, Wisconsin was originally designed as guest quarters for a rambling farm house. The owners were so enthralled that they turned it into their own home and reserved the old house for visitors. The home connects to the land like the historic barns that are seeded through the landscape thanks to the locally sourced, rough oak clad exterior and simple shape.
The vestibule wall on the west entrance is angled to evoke an old leaning barn, and the large porch is well protected from the afternoon sun, which glows through the slats during sunsets. Southern windows allow sunlight and heat into the space, which is absorbed by the concrete floor. The floor has radiant tube that is heated by a solar thermal system and a ground source heat pump.
The interior continues the barn vernacular with a “hay loft” lifted above the main floor and a bedroom below in the “grain cellar”. Interior lights and doors are set with ropes and pulleys, and the few large openings control light and egress with cabled awnings and sliding doors. A metal box and ash strip walls and ceilings form the interior rooms, which are finished with diamond tread steel, bamboo and concrete flooring.
The balance of quirky details and materials with a clear vision and pragmatic and energy-efficient design is notable in a diverse group of homes in this year’s AIA Housing Awards.