randy brown architects, omaha, neb.

When Randy Brown, FAIA, bought a 10-acre property and old house in the farm country of Omaha, Neb., he intended it to be a laboratory for experiments in how to design something so connected to the land that it looks both natural and manmade, and in how to create defined spaces open to the larger whole. The additions were built in phases and by hand—his own and those of his students', who for the last four summers have come from universities across the Midwest to work with Brown.

Those ideas took shape as canted walls, a polycarbonate catwalk, mezzanines, and stairs that seem to fly. “We did have a basic set of construction drawings to get permits, but as soon as we started building, we pretty much threw the plans out,” Brown says. The material palette—hot-rolled rusted steel, concrete floors, and thousands of 1x2 poplar slats from The Home Depot—ties the project to the neighboring barns and abandoned farm implements. Also included are green roofs, high-efficiency heat pumps, and plumbing and wiring for future solar panels and a geothermal system.

One judge likened the multifaceted project to a Rubik's Cube: “They took all these cubes—architecture, landscape, sustainability—and aligned them perfectly. Its integration into the landscape is brilliant.”

principal in charge / project architect / general contractor: Randy Brown, FAIA, Randy Brown Architects
site superintendents: Dirk Henke, LEED AP, Matt Stoffel, Travis Gunter, Brian Garvey, and Ted Slate
student interns: Joe Vessel, Katy Atherton, Mike Hargens, Pavel Pepeliaev, Will Corcoran, Scott Shell, Jason Wheeler, Kevin Scott, Matthew Meehan, Matthew Miltner, Corey Dixon, Ash Parker, Jeremy Redding, Nathan Miller, Dale Luebbert, Brian Hamilton, Nathan Griffith, Claude Breithaupt, Alexander Jack, Ian Thomas, Bill Deroin, TJ Olson, Ryan Wilkening, Brad Rodenburg, and Jim Kersten
project size: 5,100 square feet
site size: 10 acres
construction cost: $97 per square foot

product specs
entry doors:EFCO Corp.; exterior siding:The Home Depot; flooring (wood): Boa-Franc (Mirage), Dale Ocken Floors Co.; lighting fixtures: Gampak Products Corp.; paints/stains:The Sherwin-Williams Co.; polycarbonate panels:Midwest Plastics; roofing: Firestone Building Products; sheathing: Swanson Sheet Metal Works; windows: City Glass