Feed Loader, George Heinrich

ABOUT THIS PROJECT Architect/client: Wayne Branum, SALA Architects Location: Roberts, Wis. Highlights: Three-story tower, open floor plan, green features and floor-to-ceiling windows. Size: House: 1,850 square feet including a screened porch; garage: 936 square feet including an unfinished loft. Construction costs: House: $173 per square foot; garage: $59 per square foot. Watch for Home of the Month the first Saturday of every month. The program is a partnership between the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The 12 architect-designed houses were selected by a jury of experts; the houses represent a range of prices levels, styles and locations.

Towering achievement

  • Article by: Jim Buchta
  • Star Tribune
  • September 17, 2007 - 11:30 AM

For most of Wayne Branum's adult life, pottery has been a constant. He eats from dishes he's made. He lived in Japan to learn the craft.

And without pottery, Branum, a longtime Minneapolis architect, probably wouldn't have built this house.

More than a dozen years ago, a fellow potter asked him to design a house on land near Roberts, Wis.

In return, Branum received some land, a gentle dome-shaped piece of woods and grassland with panoramic country views within earshot of mooing cows and humming tractors in the farm fields below.

Given the opportunity to do what he had done for many clients before, Branum was faced with the challenging task of designing his own house. The result is two compact buildings -- a garage/studio and a main house -- that make best use of the sun, not to mention the many-mile views. Budget was key, so Branum chose materials and shapes that would be both durable and economical. And drama? There's plenty of it in the floor-to-ceiling windows that create only the suggestion of a separation from the outdoors, in the three-story tower that offers 360-degree views and in the contrasting rooflines that visually interlock in dynamic ways.

Best of all, Branum is never far from his passion. From a desk in the third-floor office at the top floor of his tower, he can see his pottery studio. "Clay work involves being at the right place at the right time," Branum said.

That means being there when there's the right amount of moisture in the air, when the pots are ready to go into the kiln and when artistic inspiration strikes.

Here's what the Home of the Month jury said about this house: "The iconic tower, landscape and use of simple materials in a straightforward way demonstrated a deep respect for the site. It's a great example of a low budget achieving high results."

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