Madison House by Thomas Phifer
and Partners


This curvy brick house for Madison, Wisconsin, is designed by architects Thomas Phifer and Partners to resemble a serpentine garden wall.

Madison House by Thomas Phifer and Partners

With construction set to begin later this month, the building will be the home for a pair of university professors within a neighbourhood that also features houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan.

Madison House by Thomas Phifer and Partners

The site was formally formerly the garden of two residences, so the architects designed a building that would reference this. "This house in essence is a garden wall," Thomas Phifer told Dezeen. "It's extremely simple and humble, with not a lot of embellishment."

Madison House by Thomas Phifer and Partners

Built from an assortment of reclaimed bricks, Madison House will comprise a free-flowing plan loosely divided up into four wings with cedar floors and white walls. There won't be many partitions, but rooms will be naturally divided by the swelling and constricting shapes.

Madison House by Thomas Phifer and Partners

Phifer explains: "The couple live a very simple and uncluttered life, so they want something that is very minimal and expresses their desire for simplicity."

Madison House by Thomas Phifer and Partners

Frameless windows will be set forward from the brickwork and finished in mirrored glass, preventing views into rooms from the surrounding garden, while circular skylights will be dotted intermittently across the roof.

Madison House by Thomas Phifer and Partners

"We wanted sporadic skylights that light up very particular little places," added the architect. "They won't be centred in the rooms at all, but organised according to the kind of informal spirit of the walls."

Madison House by Thomas Phifer and Partners

Above: site plan - click for larger image

New York office Thomas Phifer and Partners also recently completed a college of architecture at Clemson University, South Carolina. See more architecture in the US.

Madison House by Thomas Phifer and Partners

Above: floor plan - click for larger image

Here are some project details from Thomas Phifer and Partners:

Madison House

Architect: Thomas Phifer and Partners
Structural Engineer: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Geotechnical Engineer: Nummelin Testing Services
General Contractor: Poulsen Enterprises

Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Years: 2011-Present
Client: Private
Size: 2900 sf
Project Team: Thomas Phifer, Eric Richey, John Bassett, Anja Turowski

  • Rob van Veggel

    This reminds me of so-called snake walls, which I have seen here in the Netherlands in castle gardens. In the curves of such a wall, the temperature is slightly higher and one plants fruit like peaches.

  • bbb

    Reminds me of… a bit too much.

  • Bruce Lee

    Although a very strong architectural form, it seems as if this form has dictated the entire shape of the house. It would be fantastic to live in, but the lack of flat walls in kitchen and bathroom areas makes it impractical – it would be expensive to fit and a nightmare to use.

  • Charlie Bing

    Nice work, must be magical in real life. An homage to Douglas Cardinal, I trust (despite the rather indifferent bricklaying)? As if.

  • Paul

    More photographs when it is finished, please!

  • JMA


  • Thomas Wensing

    Although an incredibly seductive and beautiful form I am not convinced that the house, as it is claimed, will answer to a “desire for simplicity”. I sometimes wish that architects would be more genuine in what they are saying rather than selling a lifestyle. This area, this house, is not humble, even though the style may be ‘minimal’.

  • m.w.

    1. Cannot understand the mirrored openings. It’s not a gallery or something like that. It’s a freestanding private house you live in.
    2. It seems there will be not many openings overall, some of them already facing onto brick walls, but on the other hand this site has a bit of space to let the sun in.

  • Concerned Citizen

    An amoeba, still looking to divide.

  • Colonel Pancake

    I'm not convinced.

  • Scott W

    I love the materiality, particularly the brickwork and its application to the serpentine shape of the exterior walls, but I'm not sure if this is architecture or simply an inhabitable sculpture. The form doesn't seem to leave room for practical applications, and appears to impose itself on the occupants instead of allowing spaces for user development.

  • Greg

    Adding the furnishings to curved walls will not support simplicity, but a bit of wasted space and chaos for me. Love the idea with exterior curved walls but seems the interior spaces, or main living spaces, could have been more practical and useful.
    Thus sometimes being TOO ORGANIC is not a plus. Obviously not for everyone.

  • fab

    A lot of courage, from both the clients and the architects. Further steps pics will be greeted.

  • I presume the site was FORMERLY the garden of two residences.

  • Can you open the windows?

  • Eero Koivisto

    If the detailing can be kept as on the renderings (i.e. no visible “roof” joints, window frames recessed into walls) this will be a great house. Personally I think that the plan works well.

  • Julian H.

    For me it looks like a quite flexible space. With contemporary open space living we don’t mount furniture to the walls anymore anyway – or do we?

    Forget “form follows function”, for once we are 21st century and now “form follows emotion” is the new paradigm. It’s about telling a story, about creating an emotional space and interacting with the environment.

  • katya b.

    The windows, while beautiful, are an unconscionable invitation to birds on an unintended suicide mission.

    • smack

      All windows are. This is a fairly minor example.

  • Matt

    Where do you get in? Through the magic mirrors?

  • J Dizzle

    When I look at the interior renderings, I like to imagine that the dudes in them are looking out, away from the blobby interior, thinking “I wish that any of my stuff had fit into this minimal egotistical design.”

  • gav

    The number of precedents for a project like this is staggering; I don’t think it would be fair to say that he’s ripping on any one person, though there are some definite close ties that come to mind. The most direct example is a project I’ve rarely seen published – a sinuous brick wall Sol Lewitt designed for the garden of an art collector in Dallas, something I suspect Mr Pfeiffer saw when/if he traveled there while working on his pavilion restaurant at Kyle Warren Park.