Architect: Johnsen Schmaling Architects
Contractor: JM Construction
This new private residence on Milwaukee’s north shore is carefully embedded in the gently sloping site and cradled by mature trees and thick underbrush. In response to the owners’ desires for a house that offers privacy and serenity while also accommodating frequent social events, the design solution organizes the house as two interlocking building forms. The entry court, parking, service functions and main bedroom suite are consolidated in a long narrow single-story wood-clad volume that straddles the site. Spaces for guests and entertainment are housed in a complementary perpendicular volume defined by a continuous concrete block ribbon that negotiates the dropping topography and ultimately folds up to form an elevated observatory, with views of the surrounding tree tops and the shore of Lake Michigan. The recessed entry vestibule at the junction provides access to both the private and public spaces and leads into the adjacent open living hall, which is defined by a series of variegated green-hued perimeter walls. An open linear kitchen runs along one side of the living hall. Enclosed by tall glass, steel stairs lead up to the observatory, with access to an expansive vegetated roof, and down to a guest bedroom suite, which spills out to a sunken terrace with a fire pit. Exterior materials regionally sourced – bleached and whitewashed cedar from northern Wisconsin and 24” long white concrete masonry units from Illinois – complement the fiber concrete wall panels in shades of green.
Jury Comment: “This elegant house is why we have architecture. It actually improves its site. It is a wonderfully rigorous and sophisticated composition, with control of the material. There is absolute clarity in terms of the massing and the way in which it is reinforced by the detailing. The interplay of the components and the landscape is beautifully executed. While it may look simple, it’s not.”
Photos: John J. Macaulay