Nexus House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects

© John J. Macaulay

Architects: Johnsen Schmaling Architects
Location: , Wisconsin,
Project Year: 2012
Project Area: 2,000 sq ft
Photographs: John J. Macaulay

The Nexus House, a compact home for a young family of four, occupies a small site in University Heights, a historic residential district in Madison with iconic homes by Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Keck & Keck, and many others.  Successfully contesting the local preservation ordinance whose strict guidelines advocated stylistic mimicry while failing to recognize the neighborhood’s rich architectural diversity, we designed a quiet but unapologetically contemporary building, its formally restrained volume discreetly placed in the back of the trapezoidal site, where it avoids direct visual competition with its two dignified neighbors, a hundred-year old Spanish Colonial home and the Ely House from 1896, a cherished landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.

© John J. Macaulay

The house is composed of two principal building blocks: a two-story brick podium partially carved into the site’s existing slope; and a linear cedar-clad meander that wraps up and over the podium before transforming into a cantilever, its overhang providing shade for the south-facing main level patio.  Following this binary parti, the home’s “public” functions – garage, support rooms, and an open living hall – are located in the brick base, while its “private” spaces – upper level bedrooms, baths, and a small reading room – are housed in the cedar volume.  Exterior steps lead up the slope to the home’s front door, a glazed recess with a delicate steel canopy marking the vertical joint between the two distinct building blocks.  The glass entry door opens into a small vestibule that leads into the main living hall, an open space for cooking, eating, and sitting, where a series of floor-to-ceiling windows offer arriving guests expansive, carefully framed views into the neighborhood.

© John J. Macaulay

The deliberately neutral interiors of the living hall are complemented by a troika of dark-stained wood objects that spatially anchor the open space:  a small entertainment center; a fireplace and chimney; and a wood wall and canopy cradling an intimate side lounge, which can be separated from the living hall with large pocket doors to serve as a guest bedroom or quiet study.

Plan 01
Cite: "Nexus House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects" 13 Sep 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 16 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=270621>

1 comment

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    Love the simplicity and organic nature of the home. I do have a some questions, is this cheaper to build than say a more typical story in a half home in a place like West Des Moines IA.? Or does the uniqueness of the home add to the overall costs and therefor make it more expensive to build than your suburban homes? Lastly what are the “green” factors in the house? Any solar? Any radiant heat source? Thanks for any answers or feedback.

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