Edge House

Designed by David O’Brien Wagner

with Chris Meyer

Conceived as a refuge from urban life, the land’s rural setting is what drew the owners to select this location for their weekend retreat. Sited in southwestern Wisconsin, the project rests on a seam between two influences: a union with agricultural land on one side, and a powerful bond to the Mississippi River corridor on the other.

A gravel farm road leads to the first glimpse of the project, revealing a cluster of simple agrarian forms at the scale of a farmstead. Here the site opens northward to farmland and southward to the Mississippi River. The circumstance is of an edge condition –a negotiated pull between two powerful site conditions.

The owner’s parcel is part of the treed bluff edge, but was partially cut over by a developer before they purchased the land. A 100’ gash in the tree canopy had been created to open views to the river. This pre-existing condition formed the basis of response to the site: to fill the gap with an elongated bar. The architecture’s essence is a semi-solid wall used to fill the negative space between the tree edges, and between the ground plane and the canopy above.

The program is broken into distinct, small-scale elements. A Machine Shed and Tool Shed house are positioned to offer privacy from the road, while the Living Shed opens southward taking advantage of views and solar access.

A single-sloped roof controls seasonal entry of direct sunlight and operable windows provide cross ventilation. To the north, living spaces are shielded from harsh winter weather using the thickened steel wall as a winter coat.

Construction by Planesman Construction
Photographs by Troy Thies

AIA Minneosta/StarTribune Home of the Month Award, 2013
North American Wood Design Awards, Citation, 2012
2016 AIA MN/MplsStPaul Magazine RAVE Award

StarTribune, June 2013
Wood Design & Building Journal, Summer 2013
Architecture MN, May/June 2013
Tonka Times Magazine, September 2011
Midwest Home Guide to Good Design