This two bedroom, two bath residence is modest in size, made special through clear spatial organization, dramatic light, and ordinary materials applied in extraordinary ways. Neatly organized into sides, the house contrasts a single lofty, bright space with a collection of snug, dim rooms.
The quality and direction of light are dimensions of space that I learned about first as a stage designer. Here, the rectangular skylight illuminates from above and frames the sky, referencing everything from the compluvium of the pre-Roman House of the Tragic Poet to James Turrell's skyspaces.
A simple switchback stair coils up one side of the house and springs forward into the other as an interior balcony: a great place to sit and read, play violin, or make an announcement to a house filled with guests.
The house also features two dedicated workspaces -- an enclosed office and a work bench with a view. Creating comfortable, functional places to work at home will be an important part of residential architecture moving forward.
Simple shapes, volumes, and materials compose the rear of this residence. I think of these things anatomically -- skeletal beams, muscular prisms, steel and wood skins...
Buildings are massive hand made objects, assembled from differing and distinct materials. Expressing these materials and celebrating their joinery is one of my pursuits as a designer. But first I must select the right materials for the project. Determining the fitness of a material is a multivariable calculus: suitability, durability, sourcing, sustainability, and meaning are all important considerations. For a boy who grew up near the Iron Range, weathering steel has special associations, as does knotty pine (a staple of Northwoods cabin interiors), both of which are used here for graphic color and pattern.
A clear passage from the front door to back door allows you to see right through the house. Alignments and viewpoints are notions I first explored in stage design and have been able to play with and formalize even more in architectural design.
A simple, tidy kitchen at the back of the house has great light and a lovely view, as though it belongs more to the back garden than the house itself.
BENJAMIN OLSEN WORKSHOP | Summer 2020