Alchemy’s Sonoma Weedhouse receives a “2018 AIA Small Project Award”

Designed in Minnesota, built in Oregon and delivered to the client in California, Alchemy’s Sonoma weeHouse® received a “2018 Small Projects Award” from a jury of architects chosen by the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) based in Washington, DC.

From the AIA’s website, “A small project can make a big impact, and a single design element can set the tone for large projects. These [Small Project] awards highlight the value of every contribution to a project and showcase standard-setting small projects, regardless of size and budget.” 2018’s theme, Renewal, was intentionally open-ended to encourage wide interpretation by entrants. Each Small Project Award recipient demonstrates design achievement including how the project fits into its environment. The Sonoma weeHouse was entered into Category 2: “small project construction under $1,500,000”.

The Sonoma weeHouse, a small, ultra-minimal, prefabricated home designed by Geoffrey C. Warner, AIA, was customized in collaboration with the client, an architect himself: BJ Siegel, Senior Design Director, Apple Real Estate and Development.

The project is composed of two open-sided prefabricated boxes set on concrete plinths nestled on the edge of gnarled oaks in the hills outside of Santa Rosa, CA. The two structures were shipped essentially complete. The primary living structure (640 SF) features a contemporary, open kitchen, a sleeping area created by a whitewashed oak bed-box, a living room, and a bath. For shipping purposes, this structure was designed as two modules: the main box, and a bolt-on porch, which cantilevers 10 feet into the dramatic landscape. The accompanying guesthouse (330 SF) is an abridged version of the primary structure and features a large whitewashed oak wardrobe that forms the bathroom wall, while also providing storage and privacy. Both structures feature steel frames, 9 ft. tall sliding glass walls, ipe interiors, and custom oiled oak doors on stock cabinetry. They are both sided in corrugated weathering steel, and sited to take advantage of the site’s dramatic, sweeping views.

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2017 marked the 15th Anniversary of Alchemy’s original weeHouse, the contemporary prefabricated modular home first designed for a Minnesota Orchestra violinist in 2002/2003. Since then, weeHouses have been celebrated as objects of architectural optimism and design efficiencies: “the greenest square foot is the one you don’t build”. Working with factories around the United States, Alchemy has delivered 40+ weeHouses from Oceanside, OR to San Diego, CA, Tremont, ME to Charlottesville, VA, and Door County, WI to Albany, TX. The weeHouse presaged the current popular fascination around “tiny houses,” industrial tech, and sustainable living.

Alchemy’s weeHouse program continues to illustrate progressive thinking about the luxury of less, an architecture of simplicity, and an efficient but celebratory use of materials. Two new designs being beta-tested are the barnHouse, a SIPs (structurally insulated panels) kit which combines “farm-tech” with modern design, and the lightHouse, a SIPs kit ADU (accessory dwelling unit). Alchemy’s other projects include Bang Brewing, single-family homes, renovations, retail stores/ façades and commercial offices, restaurants, and art installations including its LightHotel, a one-room mobile hotel.

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