A house going against the grain

Kerry Boettcher
Monday 16 Feb 2015

A 1955 grain silo ‘upcycle’ by Christoph Kaiser challenges the convention of ‘home’ at an affordable cost in historic downtown Phoenix, Arizona

It all started when Christoph noticed a ‘for sale’ ad on the internet for a Kansas farmer’s dismantled silo. He got the idea to buy the silo and create an ultra-compact, affordable, yet comfortable living space, which would demonstrate the potential of urban renewal and ‘upcycling’.

Assembling a found ‘kit of parts’ small enough to be transported in the back of a pickup truck that would result in a comfortable, modern and unique home was a very appealing design challenge from a sustainability and economic point of view. The transformation of the agricultural silo into a house was finished in late 2013.

The main objective of the Silo House was to offer the functions of a typical home but in a radically different and more compact way. Working with only a 190 square-foot, circular footprint, the Silo House programme is a comfortable, one to two person home that targets market demands for affordable, modern living space. The design itself is made up of two different but complementary parts: exterior shell and interior object. The silo’s exterior, preserved in white, pays homage to the rural and agricultural spirit of the great American landscapes, and also serves to reflect the intense desert sun. The large, warm, monolithic wood and steel ‘machine for living’ that sits within the silo, reads almost as one large piece of furniture, and efficiently accommodates all living needs. An operable oculus located at the top of the silo allows for passive ventilation of the interior space.

 The surrounding neighbourhood also played a crucial role in the design strategy of the project. Firstly, the run-down state of the surrounding homes and alleyway in this downtown neighbourhood required an insular design approach. Strategically framed views of the Phoenix skyline are provided within an otherwise enclosed exterior garden that acts as a natural, private buffer to the surroundings. Secondly, addressing both the rich historical heritage and state of the area, was a consideration that required a balance of reverence and boldness respectively. The project was graciously accepted by City of Phoenix Historic Preservation with an appreciation of how projects such as this can act as a catalyst for entire community rehabilitation.

 Silo House efficiently uses space but also offers stylish and imaginative living inside, all at a value for money price.

 “It was love at first sight: an affordable, challenging prospect,” explains Christoph Kaiser, owner of Christoph Kaiser LLC. “The thought of assembling a kit of parts that fits in the bed of truck, and ending up with a home for two was a tantalizing challenge, very appealing from a carbon-footprint, sustainability, and, shall we say, ‘architectural rigor’ standpoint.”

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