Two renowned doctors from South Africa, with an extensive, indigenous African art collection, relocated their family to Omaha and desired to completely renovate an older home to fit their contemporary aesthetic. At the exterior, new siding and windows were added to elevate the composition and hierarchy of the form. In the backyard a new shade pavilion, patio space, and concrete retaining walls were included to create a sequence of outdoor rooms. Low-level concrete walls were incorporated to help dignify and define the spatial progression to the front door.
On the interior, several walls were removed while new windows were added to open up views, establish stronger relationships between rooms, and flood the living spaces with natural light. Custom shelving and new lighting were added to display the client’s art and wine collections, enhanced by new floor and wall finishes in a muted, neutral palette.
The new exterior design creates livable indoor-outdoor spaces and adds low-concrete walls, concepts that are reminiscent of the client’s lifestyle and neighborhood in South Africa. Existing mature plants are retained, while native species are added to create a sustainable, low-maintenance outdoor environment. The remodel solved many technical problems with the old house including numerous leaks and persistently frozen pipes while increasing energy efficiency through added insulation and high-efficiency windows. Through diligent attention to detail, the complete remodel has created a home that responds to the client’s unique way of living, unifies the interior to the exterior, and provides a much more enjoyable and functional space.
Six priests from disparate rural Nebraska parishes sought to build a retreat house. Having attended seminary together, they needed a place for both quiet contemplation and animated theological dialogue. The small site they acquired is located atop a bluff overlooking the Platte River Valley and the town of Fremont, Nebraska. Adjacent farm buildings, dating back to the late 1800’s, are still utilized by neighbors from whom the property was acquired.
The program was simple, though unusual, when compared to a typical vacation home. The house includes a small chapel with views over the valley. A loft accommodates study for one priest or a small group while focusing views on the most satisfying elements of the site. The living room facilitates parish and family retreats on an informal basis.
The house was inspired by the adjacent agrarian vernacular and conceived as a simple shotgun shack “aimed” at the valley below. The house subtly reveals views of the valley only as you enter and proceed through it while the roof and skewed appendages identify and articulate the programmatic spaces within.
Among the thousands of workers in a colony, only a small handful of alate ants have the ability to take to the sky. This select group of winged drones and princesses does not fight, it does not forage for food, in fact, it does no real work at all. Once per year, however, it performs a vital role as it takes its nuptial flight, finding mates, and propagating new life for the colony.
Alate is designed to revive life for a tired and unused patio shared by a brother and sister living in adjacent duplex units. The translucent Polygal roof drifts over the space, held aloft by an array of steel trusses delicately balanced atop four airy columns. By softly filtering the harshest midday sun rather than blocking it altogether, the pavilion creates a cool, sheltered space without compromising the transmission of light into the adjacent home. Additionally, Alate celebrates the movement of water as the rain generates living, dancing figures as it patters and streaks down the roof into the cantilevered channel and drops gracefully into the raingarden below, a reminder of the new life it brings to the home.
Winner of the AIA Central States Region Architectural Merit Award for Architectural Detail, 2017
Originally built in 1952, the existing home’s modest yet refined aesthetic was simple, sophisticated and comfortable. When the clients decided to add a master suite and outdoor living area, the challenge was to preserve its modest sensibility while embracing the home’s mid-century modern appeal.
The new bedroom wing is a soothing space with a refined aesthetic. Rich maple wood paneling continues the clean lines found throughout the house and gives the bedroom a natural feel. The cozy fireplace, accented by black quartz and a wrap-around steel plate, anchors the bedroom and provides a focal point. Windows provide views in three directions as well as ample natural light throughout the space. The addition also includes a functional walk-in closet and a simple, refined bathroom.
Accessed from either the new master bedroom or the existing dining room, the outdoor patio and built-in kitchen expand the house’s living area, emphasizing a connection between indoors and outdoors. It offers views across the expansive backyard and a comfortable place to relax on warm summer evenings.
The existing Woolworth Kitchen was a long, narrow, and cluttered space with dated decoration. The remodel utilizes the existing space to create a clean, contemporary kitchen and adds a simple, organized home office while allowing for wheelchair accessibility. The focal point of the design is a custom cast-in-situ concrete island, accented with black quartz, and framed from above by laminated maple ceiling panels. The appearance of boiling water inspired the design of the ceiling panels, which were executed using computer modeling programs and fabricated with a CNC milling machine. The dynamic, boat-shaped island retains the wood texture from its formwork and leans outward as it curves through the narrow space. Behind the island, a custom-designed LED lighting panel that slowly cycles through a variety of colors highlights the central area and adds a calming ambience to the kitchen. To help simplify the perimeter, custom-designed cherry doors and stainless steel hardware conceal the washer, dryer, ironing board, and closets while the built-in home office is a simply organized layout for the efficient management of the household.
To facilitate handicap accessibility, the kitchen design includes an architect-designed, operable handicapped ramp which is simple, manual, and nearly maintenance free. The ramp, along with a custom-designed folding table and sliding support at the end of the island, add flexibility to the space and contribute to ease of use and mobility for the handicapped user.
The design and execution was achieved through the use of high-tech computer modeling and skilled craftsmen using age-old building techniques. The final result is a carefully-crafted and composed interior that meets the client’s expectations to both celebrate and simplify the working side of the family home.
KidStructure is an outdoor pavilion designed to “spark the imagination of the young and young at heart” for the Omaha Botanical Garden’s summer exhibition. It is inspired by the agricultural forms of the Great Plains and conceived as a fun yet educational vehicle for children to learn about corn from seed to harvest.
The pavilion is bounded by rows of corn planted so that children can observe its growth on repeated visits over the course of the summer. Four illustrated panels in the pavilion’s main level document the lifecycle of corn, providing simple scientific explanations. Kids have views over the surrounding gardens from the top deck, while an overhead canopy of mesh screens patterned with abstracted corn stalks provides shade. The slide is reminiscent of the harvested corn pouring from the combine to the grain cart ready for market.
In form and massing, KidStructure is evocative of the combines that harvest Nebraska’s cornfields each autumn. The slanted walls suggest imagery of the decaying farm structures that dot the surrounding countryside, remnants of the early settlers who brought vernacular wood construction methods to the American Midwest from Europe. These pure and simple building techniques are the basis of KidStructure; light-frame walls and sawn lumber columns are tied together with wooden cross-bracing to create an economical and versatile structure while the exterior cedar screen echoes the corn-crib structures used to dry and store grain through the winter.
Sustainable Design Elements Include:
- Brownfield Site: a former garbage dump for the city turned into a public park and botanical garden
- Cedar sourced from standing dead growth trees
- Mesh shading and natural ventilation diminishes the need for air-conditioning
- Corn-crib air gaps facilitate natural light penetration
- Lifecycle Design: following the exhibition, the installation was relocated to a private residence.
Desiring to stay in his established Omaha neighborhood, the owner elected to renovate a house built in 1956 rather than wastefully demolish and rebuild it. In order to make the greatest impact, much of the interior was gutted and a dynamic spatial arrangement was designed to accentuate movement through the house to make the most of its small size.
Straightforward, elemental materials were selected for their honest integrity and low environmental impact. Vermont slate flooring, accented with black river pebbles, provides a natural base, while it increases human comfort by absorbing the sun’s rays during the day and radiating the solar heat at night. An angular stainless steel guardrail is set side by side with curved cherry wood in a warm/cold, skin/bones juxtaposition. A new open plan kitchen, skewed to relate to exterior views, replaces the original kitchen and opens up the space. Its cast-in-situ cooking island anchors the composition and acts as the hub for the living spaces. Custom aluminum track lighting spirals out from the cooking island like a pleasant cooking aroma to unite the living spaces within the house. The radiating spiral of the lighting track utilizes the golden section while further adding to the “techno-natural” theme. Efficient appliances, well-located lighting, renewable cherry wood cabinets, and high-performance windows further augment the environmental sustainability of the house.
This project satisfies the client’s objectives within a tight space and budget by economically using nature’s resources while displaying a passion for the built craft.