ISSUE 92  |  Tree Huggers

A Copper-Clad Modernist Gem in the Big Woods

September 30, 2013 10:00 AM

BY Meredith Swinehart

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In a birch forest in Northern Wisconsin lies a copper-clad architectural gem. We’re fond of the architecture, and we’re really fond of its outdoor storage wall for stacked firewood.

The 8,000-square-foot modernist home was designed by Vincent James Associates Architects (VJAA) in Minneapolis and completed in 1996. As is the case with many architectural successes, the firm’s clients were yearning for something uniquely personal to them. In this case, they were intrigued by the idea of collecting objects in a series; say, a collection of butterflies or wooden spoons. According to the architects, in such a collection “the essential characteristics and variations among objects appear amplified by grouping them within a type.” 

Here, the type is a wood-framed, copper-clad box. Variations exist in the shape, size, orientation to the sun, and views of the forest beyond. We spotted the project among the portfolio of Minneapolis-based landscape architects Coen + Partners, members of our Architect/Designer Directory. (The firm worked on siting the home in its birch forest landscape, and recommended materials to the VJAA team.)

What caught our eye was a storage wall for stacked firewood within an outdoor courtyard at the center of the property. We imagine the owners putting the firewood to good use in all four seasons, indoors and out. 

Photography by Don Wong

Above: A handful of materials—blue stone, douglas fir, copper, and cut firewood—comprise a dramatic architectural courtyard.

Above: Copper paneling at the courtyard’s exit shows varying degrees of oxidization. 

Above: A solid wall of Douglas fir echoes the stacked firewood around the corner.

Above: A blue stone patio exists atop one of the living spaces, open to the air but private in its relative inaccessibility. 

Above: The differing dimensions of windows and doors vary the occupants’ views of the forest.

Above: When viewed in full elevation, the architects’ variations on a single structure type becomes clear.

Stacked firewood has me thinking about possibly its best use—a hot tub. Learn more in On Fire: A Hot Tub from Holland.