Omaha, Nebraska

Record Houses 2007

VilLA NM Ring House Brown House Casa Poli Ohana Guest House Christ Church Tower Loblolly House

Randy Brown, FAIA, treats Nebraska architecture the same way Conor Oberst treats its music. Oberst, otherwise known as Bright Eyes, sings “No one ever plans to sleep out in the gutter/sometimes that’s just the most comfortable place” in his 2005 song “Road to Joy,” and you can’t help but sense the same theme of turning circumstance into opportunity, with a slight wink to its consequences, unfolding in Brown’s massive Omaha house perched among trees on a hilly 10-acre lot north of the city. You won’t see another house like this 12-gauge-hot-rolled-steel-clad landmark in Omaha—if not the state—guaranteed.

A bridge connects the gallery living space to the existing house, while a lower-level hallway in the new section provides the main entrance.

Once you drive the gravel road to the back of the native prairie site, the main form of the house looms over you with what Brown calls the “big cube,” or “gallery,” which contains the living room in an oversize extruded steel tube, split in two, peeled back in some locations to reveal windows and punctured in others to allow new hallways to connect with an existing house. These few sweeping figural gestures announce the architect’s ambitions as clearly as anything: Here, architecture is a closed system of continuous materials and program for the architect to manipulate. A minimal set of materials—steel, drywall, conventional lumber, glass, plastic—and a conventional program (including four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a living room) freed Brown to make the new structure’s organization less cohesive, more improvisatory.

And so, beginning in 2003, he took his preparatory drawings and concocted the construction of his family’s house over three years. That ad hoc impulse also fed the summer work programs Brown has orchestrated since 1998 for architecture students from a handful of colleges. (Prior to this house, which he nicknamed LAB-or-a-t-ory, students contributed to his other Omaha projects.) Adventurous kids, receiving pay and academic credit, spent a few weeks each summer drawing before descending en masse on the house to experiment with designs and ultimately fabricate them. This breezy group effort—an alt-rock update on the Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin camp—led to many happy discoveries, plus craftsmanship rivaling houses that cost much more than the $495,000 paid for this one of 5,100 square feet.

“We redesigned every piece before we built it,” Brown says. “The building department didn’t look at the drawings, they looked at what was there.” So did Brown. When he bought the site in 1999, it came with an unexceptional two-story 1950s yellow ranch-style house that would suffice as a home for himself, his wife, and two young sons until he was ready to build the house he really wanted.

Project Specs
Brown House
Randy Brown Architects

the People

Randy, Kimberly, Remy, Preston Brown

Randy Brown Architects
1925 N 120th ST.
Omaha, NE 68154
Fax 402-551-2033

Randy Brown FAIA  lead project designer/construction manager

2006 summer crew: 
Dale Leubbert, Brian Hamilton, Nate Miller, Ian Thomas, Alex Jack, TJ Olson, Joe Vessel, James Kersten, Nathan Griffith, Claude Breithaupt, Brad Rodenburg, Ryan Wilkening

2005-2006 winter crew:
John Gallup, Dirk Henke, Mike McMahan,

2005 summer crew:
Nate Miller, Bill DeRoin, Jason Wheeler, Kevin Scott, Matt Goldsberry

2004 crew: 
Travis Guenter, Brian Garvey, Ted Slate

2003 summer crew:
Mike Hargens

2001 summer crew:
Matt Stoffel, Matt Miltner, Matt Meehan, Pavel Pepeliaev, Will Corcoran, Katy Atherton, Ted Slate, Nate Giesselman

2000 summer crew:
Ash Parker, Jeremy Redding, Scott Shell    

Architect of record:
Randy Brown FAIA

Interior designer
Randy Brown FAIA

Scott Gilliland PE, Shane Hennesey PE, Infra{structure} LLC

General contractor
Randy Brown Architects

Farshid Assassi, Hon. AIA Iowa
Assassi Productions
PO Box 3651
Santa Barbara, CA 93130

CAD system, project management, or other software used
Auto Cad, 3d Studio Vis


the Products

Exterior Cladding
12GA hot rolled steel panels by STATE STEEL Dave Bernstein, Swanson Sheet Metal, Dennis Swanson    

Rubber roof by Firestone, Jim Placek

Hot rolled tube steel frames built by Randy Brown Architects

Glass  1” insulated low e and  ½“ tempered low e from City Glass          

Insulated-panel or plastic glazing:
3/4“ frost, Polygal

Paints and stains
Sherwin Williams Cashmere pure white

Wall coverings
½ “Baltic Birch from Plywood Inc., 1”x2” wood slats from Home Depot

Tile flooring:
Carrara Marble by Sunderland Brothers, Knutzen tile

Raised flooring:
Mirage Maple hardwood flooring by Dale Ocken Company

Cassina LeCorbusier chairs and sofas

Cassina LeCorbusier glass coffee table

Gampak Par 38 Lampholders with Par 20 Halogen bulbs, Metro Electric

Bolero stainless steel by Kohler

Purist Hat Box by Kohler
Nexus by Toto
Glenwall by American Standard

Radiant Flooring:
Verne Simmons Radiant flooring by Master mechanical, Chris Kennedy

Rembrant masterpiece by Lasco, Ed Huffman WT Leonard Company

Coralis by Kohler

Grohe, Raven Plumbing

Towel bars:
MDZ stainless trowel bars TKO Assoc.

Toilet paper holders:
Inox stainless TKO Assoc.