Fieldstone House by Bruns Architecture

Fieldstone House by Bruns Architecture

Architects: Bruns Architecture
Location: Richfield, Wisconsin, USA
Photo courtesy: Tricia Shay Photography

Rock picking is every farmer’s springtime nemesis. Each winter as the earth freezes and thaws, rocks rise to the surface of the soil and must be removed before plowing can proceed. Stacked at the edges of fields, they become stone walls that tell stories of the region’s history. On a site consisting of both a small farm field and the heavily wooded topography of two glacial kettles, Fieldstone House is balanced about just such a wall with a glacial history all its own.


It was the two glacial kettles, their existence the reason the land to the east was never logged or farmed, that drew the owners to this site. Approaching the house’s entry, one’s view is framed by steel trellises and a notch in the stone wall focusing attention on the woodland topography beyond. Once inside, the view is again aligned through the house and towards the forest.


The house’s primary living spaces are collected in a tall volume on the woodland side, with support spaces in the smaller, flat-roofed structure on the field side. The geometries of these forms respond to the varied site conditions as they address the hierarchical program within. The roof of the primary volume gently slopes to a central valley, subtly reminiscent of the adjacent glacial topography.


Beginning south of the entry, continuing through the interior spaces and extending back out to the north, a fieldstone wall organizes circulation and provides an inherent connection and orientation to the site. The fieldstone used for the wall was collected from a nearby site after being brought to the region in a glacier originating in Canada. The veneer itself was polished smooth by glacial activity. And the striations on the surface are the result of debris within the ice that was dragged across the settling stone.


Zinc panels hang like drapes on the facade from the clerestory down to the lower level, blurring the floor line that threads between the spaces. The warm grey metal is balanced with smooth cedar siding that wraps the flat volumes. The taught application highlights a larger geometric composition of the components and blends warmly with the surrounding vegetation.


Centered in the main volume, a board-formed concrete chimney engages and anchors both levels. Wood burning fireplaces are enjoyed from both sides of this element, offering flickering views through its mass while providing visual screening from one space to the next. Within the entry, a cedar wall extends down past a timber and steel stair providing visual connection between the two levels.


The house has low-e, argon filled triple pane glazing throughout. Opaque walls are thermally optimized with air-tight foam insulation. Radiant heat is utilized within polished concrete floor slabs on both levels. The mass of the concrete retains the heat energy and distributes it evenly throughout the day. The south facing eave is precisely extended to allow sunlight to fully penetrate the space on winter days, while passively providing shade in the summer.

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