House at Stone Creek Camp
The two-foot- (0.6-meter-) thick cordwood wall on the upper side of the Master House is constructed with a double wythe of wood and an insulated waterproof layer in the middle. The cordwood is dry stacked and attached to the center insulated wall using blind fasteners. The result is a commodious structure connected materially with the site.
Inhabitants may choose to be outdoors while inside by sliding open the walls and moving outside to spaces that are more civilized than the outlying wilderness. Similarly, with each bedroom's separate, screened-in space, it is always possible to sleep in nature and yet still be secure within the building.
The materials and textures of the buildings connect them to the site. Like the lake, they feel as if they have been — and will be — here forever. The effect is paradoxical: despite their size, the camp's large structures seem to emerge from the rock, wood, and grasses that surround them.
On the Residential Architecture of Arthur Andersson and Chris Wise
Commentary by Frederick Steiner
The houses designed by Austin-based Andersson-Wise Architects accomplish twin, apparently competing goals. Their buildings appear contemporary, evoking ideas and feelings about our current condition, while fitting seamlessly into the environments that they inhabit. The work appears as if it has always been there, imbuing its context with a sense of participation.
Fresh out of architecture school at the University of Kansas, Arthur Andersson met Charles Moore in the late summer of 1980. Moore later chose Andersson to be his and William Turnbull's assistant during the building of the Wonderwall at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition. After Moore moved to Austin to become the first O'Neil Ford Chair at the University of Texas, he invited Andersson to manage his new office there.
Moore and Andersson envisioned a Texas Taliesin and bought a piece of property in the heart of Austin to realize that vision. They set up a makeshift office in Moore's living room and added a design studio, transforming the house into a compound.
The studio was established around a dedicated group of architects that included Chris Wise, who had earned a degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1987. In this context, Andersson and Wise began their careers under the tutelage of a mentor who devoted much of his life to the design of houses.
Chris Wise worked with Moore/ Andersson Architects until 1991, when he went to work for Donlyn Lyndon, one of Moore's original partners at MLTW, in Berkeley, California. Wise later received a master of design studies from Harvard in 1995 and then returned to Austin to work with Andersson.
Even after Moore passed away in 1993, the firm remained Moore/ Andersson until 2001, when Wise became a partner and the name was changed to Andersson-Wise Architects. Their work came to distinguish itself from that of Moore.
"We studied alternative strategies," Andersson declares, "and became drawn to materials of consequence, materials that look better, not worse, over time."
As a result of their interest in what it takes to be comfortable in a given climate, the material quality of the buildings is palpable. Their buildings are situated with careful consideration for how they will age. The fascination with how buildings can withstand time has drawn Andersson to look closely at ruins. "With ruins," he notes, "you can fill in the spaces left blank by time."
Following Moore's death, much of the firm's work focused on residential projects. Their houses, like ruins, provide a canvas where the residents fill in the open spaces.
A residence in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona, designed in Moore/ Andersson's last years, stands out in its response to climate and context. Connie and Martin Stone's home, completed in 1995, minimizes energy consumption by using the opportunities and constraints of its harsh yet beautiful surroundings.
An evaporative cooling system combined with massive adobe walls and careful orientation to capture breezes within the desert climate. The house offers expansive views of the city of Tucson on one side and the Catalina Mountains on the other. The large openings that engage these views are in alignment with prevailing breezes. The architects took on energy and environmental concerns with this house before the recent rapid expansion of interest in green design and before the widespread application of sustainable design tools.
The Stones were so pleased with their desert home that they embarked on a new project with Andersson and Wise, this one on the sloping shores of Flathead Lake near Bigfork, Montana.
If designing in the desert was about protection from harsh sunlight, designing this compound in northern Montana was an exercise in bringing sunlight into buildings and their surrounding spaces.
The result is four buildings carefully sited on a series of terraces leading to a boat dock and a future swim dock. In addition to the main house, the complex includes a gatehouse, a guesthouse, and a lodge.
More than buildings, the structures in the Stone Creek Camp are modified porches, open to the warmth of the sun and views of Flathead Lake. With close consideration of terrain, the design displays masterful use of its site, allowing the outdoors and the indoors to flow together seamlessly.
When trees were cut, the wood was reused as a building material. For example, the master house includes stunning cordwood walls, evoking the giant firewood piles visible across the American West. These walls are powerful in their humility.
The image is of something that is new, yet seems to have always been there.
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Arthur Andersson and Chris Wise are principals of Andersson-Wise Architects in Austin, Texas. Andersson was previously a principal of Moore/ Andersson Architects with Charles Moore. Wise previously worked at Moore/ Andersson and at Lyndon/ Buchanan Architects.
Frederick Steiner is the dean of the school of architecture and the Henry M. Rockwell Chair in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. Books he has written include Human Ecology: Following Nature's Lead and The Living Landscape.
This article is excerpted from Natural Houses: The Residential Architecture of Andersson-Wise by Arthur Andersson and Chris Wise, copyright © 2010, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.