Alchemy Architects’ weeHouse Lives Large with New National Award

Alchemy Architects’ weeHouse continues to live large. Designed in Minnesota (the firm is located in St. Paul), built in Oregon, and delivered to the client in California, Alchemy’s Sonoma weeHouse (built in 2016) just received a “2018 Small Projects Award” from the American Institute of Architects. The Small Project Practitioners, an AIA Knowledge Community, presented the awards “to recognize small project practitioners for the high quality of their work and to promote excellence in small project design,” according to the awards website. “This program strives to raise public awareness of the value and design excellence that architects bring to projects, no matter the limits of size and scope.”

Sonoma weeHouse (Alchemy Architects)

Geoffrey Warner, Alchemy’s founder and the weeHouse’s designer, says the award “recirculates the project not only to the general public, but also the construction industry and our peers in design. The award also is helpful is furthering discussion around Alchemy’s mission of efficient yet elegant design. And it gives us the opportunity to talk about modular construction as a tool to deliver design.”

The small, light, minimal Sonoma weeHouse was customized to meet the luxe finishing requirements the client requested. The prefab house is composed of two minimalist open-sided boxes set on a concrete plinth nestled on the edge of gnarled oaks and an expansive view. Both structures feature steel frames, 9 foot tall sliding glass walls set into custom corrugated weathering steel boxes and ipe interiors with oiled oak cabinetry. The boxes are offset on board-formed concrete plinths connected by a set of Alchemy-designed steel stairs and railings fabricated in Minnesota.

Sonoma weeHouse (Alchemy Architects)

Alchemy is current working on several weeHouses around the country. A weeHouse on Washington Island, Wisconsin, “is inspired by the maritime iconography of the Great Lakes and is at once an industrial artifact and rocky organic outcropping. A black bedroom suite and office, punctuated by a steel emergency exit stair and salvaged ferry light along with mill parts found scattered on the owner’s property, is cantilevered over a two-story oxidized steel base,” Warner says.

A 1,200-square foot weeHouse at the edge of Pepin, Wisconsin, “will be wrapped in a barn-board screen creating voids and openings that will convert the reading of the structure from a house’ to a ‘landscape object’,” Warner continues. “On impossibly restricted wetland site in Lake Elmo, for clients from Australia, we are floating a weeHouse on piers due to be set this August.”

Also in Wisconsin, a white and black weeHouse sheathed in wood salvaged from a previous cabin on the site is under construction, as is lakeside “wedding cake design,” Warner says, featuring a glass box sitting over a solid base. A two-story boxes-over-garage-base is on its way to a site in Bloomington, Minnesota. And three to five new weeHouses with lightHouse ADU options are on the books in the Santa Rosa, California, area as post–fire rebuilds.

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