Surrounded by crop fields in Wisconsin, the small Prairie House is a cozy home for an oncologist and amateur astronomer. The structure, designed by US studio Wendell Burnette Architects, looks like a simple, utilitarian building from the outside, but its generous interior is a modern, playful living space with a rooftop observatory.
The client was looking for a house that would provide a strong connection to nature and the elements. The architects responded with a design that combines open and closed space, as well as artificial and natural materials. The rustic charm and industrial elements inspired by agricultural architecture of the region is exemplified by the choice of cladding – galvanized zinc – and the design of the ladder that leads to the rooftop observatory where the owner can pursue his hobby.
The house is rectangular in plan and divided in two by a staircase. The two halves house different functions, with the east side reserved for the kitchen, living room and dining area. This space extends onto a sheltered terrace and features a fireplace, referenced in the exterior by two chimney flues. Large openings further strengthen the connection to the surrounding agricultural landscape and introduce additional natural light to the interior.
“Its apparent simplicity is articulated by specific moments of experience,” the architects said. “These encompass notions of the house as a tuneable instrument – to connect to, and be responsible to, our environment.”
Photos by Bill Timmerman