Franklin County, Kansas
The clients were a young couple with open minds and $50,000. This combination gave us our first chance to extensively explore building with the assortment of materials available in wrecking yards throughout the area. We were able to purchase four 30ft. steel fink trusses that were salvaged from a demolished railroad building. These inexpensive trusses were the guiding force for the design of this house. The house is located off a county dirt road over a mile from the nearest paved highway. The house is tucked in the trees and gooseberry bushes just off a clearing that holds a small garage and a verdant garden.
Project Name: Mackie House
Studio Name: Rockhill and Associates
We wanted to create an open flexible space that contained a hierarchy of lofts and alcoves while keeping the building process simple. The house is two 30 ft. x 30 ft. squares, one above the other; the top one rotated at forty-five degrees. The lower square contains the living area, kitchen, bathroom and children’s room all of which revolve around a central mechanical core and wood stove. Sliding walls made of steel sash and textured glass tuck next to the core and visually divide these spaces. At the front corners of the upper square where it extends beyond the lower are two small lofts accessed by salvaged steel ladders. The back half of the upper square is the master bedroom loft. From there they can see the entire volume of the structure and out the front truss, which has been completely glazed in insulated glass panels.
The construction of this building was as simple and panelized as possible. The first floor is a standard wood frame with bolstered structure at the points where the upper square intersects. A plywood box beam frames the upper square. It is punctuated by spots of light created by square openings that hold four pieces of glass block each. Bearing on this beam are the salvaged fink trusses. Spanning from truss to truss is the roof frame that was constructed in panels on the ground and lifted into place with an extending forklift. The panels were secured to 2×4’s that had been bolted to the top of each truss. The plywood sheathing was on the bottom of rafters. It was painted and became the finish ceiling. Sheets of corrugated asphalt fiber roofed the building.
In addition to the trusses salvaged materials include the, corrugated metal siding, the Virginia greenstone that clad the plywood beam, the grating used as railings, the scrap steel stairs, the used metal cabinets in the kitchen, the bathroom fixtures, the steel sash used for the moving walls and windows and lastly a painted pipe that passes through a manhole grate and create a “firefighter pole” for the children to leave the parents loft and slide down to their room. These materials were essential to this house. The Mackies were interested in the social value of using recycled materials and we were equally interested in using them in a way that avoided the campy feel of much of this kind of construction. By taking advantage of our improvisational abilities and the client’s open spirit these materials allowed us to create a house unique to their lifestyle for very little money.