Middle America


A lush vision of the American prairie has provided a century of architectural inspiration–wide open views, waving grasses, ribbons of roadways, and boundless optimism. But as aquifers dry and desertification advances, the prairie and its local landmarks begin to sponsor another reality.  The prairieHouse is designed to work in this new environment, as it adapts the ubiquitous infrastructure of the oil industry to the needs of a very different future.

Where classic “lofts” are created from disused factory buildings, the prairieHouse imagines reuse of abandoned or outmoded gas stations, with a filling station canopy providing the bones and broad shading eaves of this new form of compact living.  A new steel chassis is attached to the station’s existing columns, allowing the house’s living spaces to be suspended protectively beneath the roof, while wraparound clerestory windows allow for a bright interior, avoiding direct solar gain.  Large decks cantilevering fore and aft provide full 360-degree visibility.

The roofscape features a new deep-soil micro-prairie with below-grade irrigation to foster growth with minimal water input. Twin ventilation / water storage stacks with integrated photovoltaics make the house a showcase for renewable energy and sustainability.  Below the house, electric vehicle charging takes place where gas pumps once stood.

The prairieHouse offers a unique vision for a post-petroleum world.

Architect: Specht Harpman

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