News that Alchemy Architects’ weeHouses would soon appear in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood, on the roof of a building at 29th and Bryant, got us wondering: Is this the first application of the modular prefab housing system on a rooftop? “No!” responded Geoff Warner, founder of the Alchemy Architects and weeHouse. At Phillips Garden, a landscape architecture firm located in a renovated Arts & Crafts gas station in the Phillips neighborhood, weeHouses were positioned on the roof for office space in 2005. “We made modules that fit on either side of a structure that held up cars undergoing repairs,” he explains.
Working with MacDonald & Mack Architects, Warner and his team verified that the building owned by developer Bruce Dachis can hold the 16 weeHouse pods that will become seven apartments—one of which Dachis will live in. “The strategy on Bryant is about putting a new grid on top of the existing columns to support the pods,” Warner says. “We also had some of the old footings excavated to make sure they could support the new load.”The project will include a studio apartment; five two-bedroom, two-story apartments; and Dachis’ unit. “Think of them as townhouses up on top of the building,” Warner says. None of the building’s tenants, which include Soo Visual Arts Center and Awaken Pilates Studio, will be displaced. Staircases and elevators will be extended up to the rooftop units. Unit features will include decks, high-efficiency furnaces, and glass.As Alchemy heads toward its 25th anniversary this fall, who would have thought the weeHouse would become so popular? The firm has done more than 50 weeHouse projects, which are built in factories, delivered by flatbed truck, and craned onto their sites. “It’s really changed the way we think about delivering design,” Warner says, “and it’s just one example of a bunch of efforts people are making to understand how to deliver architecture more effectively and with less exclusivity.”
“With this project, we have a developer/owner who will be living up there, who has embraced the idea of the weeHouse for the combination of cost and design,” he continues. “That’s significant. He’s also a great collaborator. So this project is exciting for us. It validates what we’ve been doing for the past 25 years.”
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