Studio for a Composer / Johnsen Schmaling Architects

© John J. Macaulay

Architects: Johnsen Schmaling Architects
Location: Spring Prairie, Wisconsin,
Project Year: 2011
Project Area: 500 sq ft
Photographs: John J. Macaulay


An unassuming structure embedded in Wisconsin’s rural landscape, this intimate retreat serves as a studio for a Country Western musician to write and record his music.  With its formal discipline, exacting details, and a carefully restrained material palette, the building, while unapologetically contemporary, continues the tradition of Midwestern pastoral architecture and its proud legacy of aesthetic sobriety, functional lucidity and robust craftsmanship.

© John J. Macaulay

A concrete podium, carved into a steep hill to provide storage space, supports a simple linear volume for the studio space, its long sides covered by a weathering steel shroud. Oversized glazed openings at each end of the studio provide access into the space and out onto the vegetated roof of the storage plinth, carefully framing views of the picturesque surroundings.  The steel shroud cantilevers over the edge of the studio volume to create a covered porch, a sheltered outdoor extension of the interior studio space. Along its edges, the shroud is slightly lifted off the concrete plinth, teasingly exposing a narrow, diaphanous clerestory that allows the studio volume to seemingly float above its base. During the day, the clerestory provides natural light for the storage space below; at night, it emits its soft, ominous glow into the dark landscape.

The building materials – exposed concrete and steel, glass, and wood – were locally sourced and chosen for their ability to age gracefully over time.  The carefully detailed steel envelope, its warm color of ferrous corrosion echoing the hues of the derelict machinery left behind in the area’s abandoned farm fields, turns the building skin into an ever-changing canvas.  Alloy imperfections, surface oils, and roller marks from the steel mill all leave their individual traces as the material weathers, juxtaposing the building’s strict geometry and formal restraint with a stubbornly unpredictable veneer.

© John J. Macaulay

The building materials – exposed concrete and steel, glass, and wood – were locally sourced and chosen for their ability to age gracefully over time.  The steel envelope was carefully detailed to exploit the inherent tensions between the strict modularity of the panel system and the ever-changing patterns of its oxidizing surface.  Its warm color of ferrous corrosion echoes the hues of the derelict farm equipment left behind in the area’s abandoned farm fields, turning the building skin into an ever-changing canvas.  Alloy imperfections, surface oils, and roller marks from the steel mill all leave their individual traces as the material weathers, juxtaposing the building’s strict geometry and formal restraint with a stubbornly unpredictable veneer.

© John J. Macaulay
Cite: "Studio for a Composer / Johnsen Schmaling Architects" 10 Sep 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Dec 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=270605>