Photo © John J. Macaulay

Stacked Cabin

Johnsen Schmaling Architects

Muscoda, Wisconsin
September 2012

Johnsen Schmaling’s Stacked Cabin in Muscoda, Wisconsin, adheres to the program of the traditional wooded retreat, with an emphasis on flexibility.

By Laura Raskin

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A young couple from Chicago wanted a weekend getaway in the Wisconsin woods, but their budget was “aggressively small,” says Sebastian Schmaling, of Milwaukee-based Johnsen Schmaling Architects. A traditional cabin with inflexible private rooms surrounding large, common spaces was therefore not an option. The clients and the architects were also conscious of minimizing the footprint in the rural setting: a clearing that marks an old logging road in Muscoda, Wisconsin.

In order to consolidate the program, the architects stacked the functional spaces to create a house that looks like a three-dimensional L lying on its spine. By carving into the slope of a hill, they could place a garage and bathroom in a concrete base, where cedar, for entry and garage doors, adds warmth.

From this point at the foot of the slope, stairs lead to the main level, where floor-to-ceiling curtains partition two bedrooms from an open living and dining space. Two more curtains can be closed to conceal the galley kitchen. “On a cold winter night, you might want to sit around the fireplace and not do your dishes,” explains Schmaling. Sliding glass doors open to the woods, creating a screened outdoor room in the summer. The top story, with only a third of the structure’s floor plate, is an elevated observatory.

The two upper floors are clad in anodized metal panels. To avoid the rigidity of a grid, Schmaling staggered the vertical expansion joints in the concrete base so that they would not align with the joints of the metal panels and vertical windows.

This desire for a casual gesture fits well with the flexible spatial qualities of the house and the emphasis on its natural surroundings, making this a perfect place to leave it all behind.

Johnsen Schmaling Architects
1699 N. Astor Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
P: 414.287.9000  F: 414.287.9025

September 2012
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