We're Celebrating!


Thank you to AIA-MN for two Honor Awards as announced at the 2010 MN-AIA annual convention for the Blair Barn House and the SPECS Optical Facade. We are thrilled to receive these, and to be in the company of our creative and talented peers. 

Completion of the Blair Barn House, Blair, WI

Alchemy loves barns! The Blair Barn House celebrates the straightforward utilitarian nature intrinsic to farm life by taking its clues from classic 19th century big barns and updating them for the sustainable priorities of the 21st century.

Alchemy's goal was to build a modern design acceptable in a rural community where families have lived for generations. Priorities included:
- barn siding with filtered barn light
- few, but large, openings
- an open-and-under space in the main living area, reflecting the traditional barn hay loft space and granary floors
- a nod to farm technology
- respect of a farmer's common sense approach to the seasons and tasks

Together with clients and colleagues, Geoffrey Warner put together a program of creating a full-time house with 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and adequate storage. Locally harvested 4/4 rough-sawn white oak creates a rainscreen as an exterior skin. Inside, the client (a furniture designer) wrapped walls with assorted salvaged hard woods that accentuate floating masses and passageways.The project is 2600 gross SF, with 1850 finished SF. It utilizes a geothermal heating system, passive solar/sun shading and the strategic placement of windows for reduced heat loss. A concrete thermal mass floor integrates infloor heat.

The warped west facade gives nod to the graceful, aging grey barn neighbor, and hosts great sliding porch doors. Inside, ropes and pulleys operate lights and doors. Outside, awnings of steel and cable provide for adjustable light infiltration.

This project was completely site built by Empire Development and Building in Onalaska, WI. Build costs ran approx. $360K (including geothermal).

wee goes off-grid

Bill and Mary Griffith have converted their modestly sized weeHouse into a off-grid oasis. With the addition of a fully functioning PV array this summer, Bill reports, "we are sending power back into the grid! It's pretty cool to watch." Think of it as a power station for the neighborhood. By sending power back into the grid you're actually helping to power your neighbor's house with sustainable energy.

Although the Moab weeHouse is planned to be a weeZero in the future, this is, for the record, Alchemy's first Net Zero weeHouse. And wee is thanking entrepreneurial and incredibly good-earth-minded clients for that. It's a perfect example of 'phasing in' your dream weeHouse. (The weeHouse was 'set' in Fall 2008.) The house is located near Albany, NY, so look-out-mother-nature ... wee'll be taking you on as you dish lots of snow and cold weather. In the winter months, the Griffith's enjoy warm floors from the in-floor heat system powered by a solar hot water collector on the roof, and when the sun's not shining they use an efficient wood burning fireplace to stay cozy.

With 2+ dozen or so weeHouses built to date, all of our clients are "early adopters" on the sociology scale, but when you're also a pioneer in creating 'the first' ... it's even more darn special. wee hopes you enjoy a very, very long sustainable, low impact lifestyle in high style. For more information about Net Zero weeHouses see www.weehouse.com.

MASTER/Plan: Visionary Architects and Their Utopian Worlds

weeHouse by Alchemy is pleased to be featured in MASTER/Plan, an exhibit held at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum on the campus of Rollins College, Orlando, FL. The exhibit also features ARTifacts by Geoffrey Warner. Warner will be attending the Opening (members and public) so please do come by if you're in the area.

Warner's "10 weeHouses" (with a nod to Andy Warhol's "10 Marilyns") will be on display as a print, and also as a sculpture representative of the architectural process. The original print created with Shayne Schuldt, gives blatant reference to Andy Warhol's "10 Marilyns" and extends the idea that buildings, typically thought of as commodities, can be elevated to being works of art given the right context—even if being built using mass production methods.

The 10 weeHouses sculpture features model-size weeHouses hand crafted from a variety of repurposed and new materials including: ash branches, pallet wood, acrylic, hot rolled steel, and water-jet cut aluminum. Scott McGlasson of Woodsport (www.woodsport.net) hand crafted some of the weeHouses, contributing his skilled woodworker's finishing detail. Warner worked with other local manufacturers on the speciality cuts to the acrylic and steel. (FYI: McGlasson & Woodsport are featured in many of Alchemy's award-winning projects including the Hopkins Baumann Loft, The NoLo Loft, and his very own Northwoods weeHouse.)

There is also a hands-on area for weeHouse admirers. Alchemy, along with Beka (award-winning toy makers in our hometown of St. Paul), created sets of wood and steel blocks that represent (to scale) weeHouse modules. Attendees will be able to build their own weeHouse world, and wee hopes, address development planning with an eye to the well designed future.

Scott Ervin, Betsy Gabler, and Geoffrey Warner also created a "Genuine weeHouse KIT" that is for sale in the museum shop. This series of numbered and signed weeWorld KITS let you bring home a bit of art—not quite 'mass produced' but we certainly all lined up in an assembly line to put the pieces together! Open up the repurposed military issue canteen and find weeHouse blocks, sandpapers, discs, springs, and other found objects that let you create a weeWorld where blocks are buildings, sandpapers are beaches, driveways, or alien landing pads, and springs become trees, bike stations, or playground equipment.

Thanks so much to the curatorial team for the invitation and our colleagues for their contributions as well. We're honored.
Museum Information:
Sustainable architecture, urban planning, and utopia are explored in an exhibition of models, drawings, and animations by six leading contemporary architects (Paolo Soleri, Adrien Smith, Michael Graves, Morris Adjmi, Alchemy Architects, and Chad Oppenheim). This exhibition sheds light on the creative and practical processes involved with community planning today. Visitors will be able to design their own utopian city.

Museum Admission: Admission is $5.00 for the public and free to CFAM members, NARM reciprocal members, children, Rollins College faculty, staff, and other college students with a valid ID

Museum Contact Information: Cornell Fine Arts Museum, 1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789-4499, 407.646.2526 (p), Tuesday - Friday: 10 AM - 4 PM, Saturday - Sunday: 12 - 5 PM, Closed Mondays

June 2010 Green Barn House Update

Two pictures of inspiration for the design of the Green Barn House, and two "it's almost done!" pictures from our client. We think it gives a nod to the great barns on the prairie while celebrating contemporary design. And the client loves it ... which is the most important. Interior shots forthcoming.

Williamsburg weeHouse. Ready, SET ...

Excitement! The Williamsburg weeHouse is READY, and it's on the road. Scott Ervin, project manager is waiting ... and gave us a sneak peak at the awaiting foundation. Stay tuned for more 'set' pictures as the trucks arrive!

May 2010: Green BarnHouse update

A little bit different than your typical Grandma Moses landscape ...
Spring! Siding is 1" rough sawn white oak, which is naturally weather-resistant, but has also been sealed with 2 coats of semi-transparent white stain. The oak was both an economical and sustainable choice, since it was locally harvested. Extremely durable, this will last a very long time due to the way that it is mounted to the building as a ventilated rain screen.

almost possible to see the 'house' within the house; better shot next time, we promise!
Picture perfect view.

Pre-roof, and pre-stain on the foundation.

A very mild Spring in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin has translated to a lot of progress on the Green BarnHouse in Blair, WI (see earlier posts for more photos). The clients, one of whom is a furniture maker, have kept us in touch with these great photos of the build in between site visits from Geoffrey Warner, Principal Architect here at Alchemy. On the Web site, you can view the early architectural renderings. Visit www.alchemyarch.com > custom houses > Blair BarnHouse. An elegant salute to the big, old barns we love here in the Midwest, the siding lets natural light filter in to the inner core.

Minneapolis St. Paul Home Tour Weekend! April 24-25, 2010

Alchemy is pleased to have two homes, the award-winning Goodrich Bungalow and the recently completed NoLo Loft, on the Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour happening April 24-25, 2010.

On the Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour of “real homes, real people, real ideas,” residents open their doors to show creative and practical ideas for home additions, kitchens, bathrooms and more. Talk directly with homeowners and find out what it’s like. At many homes, their contractors, architects, and other trades people will also be on hand to answer questions. Fifty-three homes will be featured, 35 Minneapolis and 18 in Saint Paul.

Here’s how the Tour works:

Homes on the free, self-guided 2010 tour will be open Saturday, April 24, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, April 25, 1-5 p.m. It will be held April 24 & 25, 2010 regardless of weather conditions.

You can decide where to start by looking at the “Homes” page on this website, wwww.MSPHomeTour.com. Printed guides will be available in early April at libraries in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and suburban Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

The Minneapolis & St. Paul Home Tour is coordinated by Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) and the City of Saint Paul Planning and Economic Development department, with other corporate and non-profit sponsors. We encourage people to stay in the neighborhoods they love, and to maintain and improve the cities’ housing stock. For information, call 612-673-5103.

Scott Ervin, along with owners Geoff Warner and Dawn De Keyser will be available to speak with you at the Goodrich Bungalow. Betsy Gabler and Bryan Carpenter, along with Loft Owner Barbara Paz will be in the NoLo Loft. Please come visit us and take advantage of this free, and very fun and informational tour! See the Web site for addresses and hours.

*Goodrich Photography by Karen Melvin

Modular Home Financing: Process

Every day we field calls about financing the weeHouses, not just building them. With a couple dozen + under our belts, we are comfortable recommending a few lending sources (although we always suggest you work with your local bank/lender first). Here's a .pdf from one of the East Coast lending sources: American Home Bank, that I thought I'd share. Hope it's helpful!

P.S. In case the .jpg is too hard to view, their Web site is: www.systembuiltmortgage.com.

Thank you, Treehugger: Best Prefab Architect = Geoffrey Warner!

Thanks to the treehugger blog for naming Geoffrey Warner, the principal architect here at Alchemy, Best Prefab Architect in their 2010 "Best of Green" Awards. We particularly appreciate that our values are noticed and valued by others. At Alchemy, our mission has consistently been to make stimulating, engaging, and efficient design accessible and affordable for a wide audience.

We are pleased to continue our distinctive hands-on approach to architecture and design that combines a playful design process, collaborative relationships with clients, and partnerships with builders and fabricators to create a harmonious blend of site, building, and community. With sustainable practices as a mainstay of our daily work, Alchemy utilizes recycling and reuse along with building strategies that reduce waste. Our multidisciplinary team draws inspiration from art, literature, history, and leading creative thinkers to create alternative and atypical project solutions. Alchemy’s innovation on the weeHouse prefab system and “tightwad panache” renovations has gained recognition we are continuously humbled by and grateful for.

Factory Seminar on Modular Building

One of the independent factories we work with to build our weeHouses, Simplex, is hosting an online seminar about the benefits of modular building. Simplex also manufactures "traditional" modular homes, so you may see examples of gable roofs, etc.. Since the process is essentially the same as a weeHouse build, I thought that you might find this useful. Please note: this is not a sales pitch on the weeHouse!

We also have a lot of information—including links to more information!—on our Web site (www.weehouse.com) under 2010 weeHouses>FAQ. And, of course, we're always happy to speak with you over the phone or online to answer questions.

Here's the Simplex seminar info:
Tuesday April 6, 2010 at 7pm EST Simplex Industries will be hosting
a new home planning seminar titled "Why Modular Makes Sense/Cents".

The seminar will be hosted by
Dave Boniello, Vice President of Marketing and Development
and Dave Mertz, Vice President of Sales at Simplex

Some of the topics that will be covered in this seminar include:
· Learn what the modular process is and how it works
· True custom designing to meet your needs
· Learn about green building costs and benefits
· Learn about energy star costs and benefits
· How to establish a budget so you can look at the right home
· What you need for financing
· Learn how the speed of modular construction can help reduce your financing costs
Click on the link below to register. https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/226134768

Rooftop weeHouse installation

from YouTube ... a quick video on the Phillips Garden weeHouse being "set"

Get Growing!

A wonderful chance to see the first rooftop weeHouse and get the green-skinny on landscape, gardening, and green living . . .

Please join Alchemy's ground-breaking (literally) clients as they celebrate twenty-five years of business.

Phillips Garden has been creating sustainable, contemporary landscapes in the Twin Cites since 1985. In 1999 they purchased and renovated a vacant and run down arts and crafts gas station on Cedar Avenue and created an award-winning studio space with a weeHouse on top!

To celebrate 25 years in business, they'll be hosting two free Open Studios on Saturday, April 10 and Saturday, April 24 from 11 am until 2 pm. These Open Studios are a great opportunity to bring your questions, photos and measurements to the designers and horticulturists at Phillips Garden to receive great advice for your home landscape. If you are considering a landscape project, this is a perfect way to test the waters and get some fresh ideas.

The Phillips Garden team of experts in horticulture and design has over 75 years of collective experience. Half-hour bookings will be taken on a first-come, first-serve basis. Call ahead to get on the schedule. Walk-in clients will be helped as time permits.


Phillips Garden

2646 Cedar Avenue South

Minneapolis, MN 55407

Creating Alchemy while Reusing Materials

Alchemy is designing the new retail space in Calhoun Square, Minneapolis for VState Clothing, an über-groovin' clothing store. It's a great fit! The new store will open in April, but right now, Alchemists are installing the flooring which is repurposed from an old warehouse floor. There's a terrific salvage spot here in Minneapolis called Bauer Brothers. It's an Alchemist's dream.

After the board installation, the flooring will be cleaned and buffed, and a unifying finish will be painted over the top. This way, the uniqueness of the boards will be maintained, but they'll look sharp and refinished ... perfect for a retail environment that provides sharp and fashionable clothing that is unique and contemporary.

More pix to be posted as the project continues . . .