By Kristal Leebrick
In the back of the red brick building at 856 Raymond Ave. in the heart of St. Paul’s Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ), a small group of architects and designers are not unlike their medieval namesakes who tried to spin common metals into gold. Alchemy Architects takes some of today’s building concepts (think efficiency, sustainability and prefabrication) and turns them into international accolades that include whimsical, quirky and often thought provoking.
Geoffrey Warner, principal architect and founder of Alchemy, says the company’s name describes the kind of work he and his team—Bryan Carpenter, Andrew Blaisdell, and interns Chris Massey and Austin Young—want to do: “take a bunch of ordinary materials, add some quasi-science and magic, and the result is (hopefully) pure gold.”
Alchemy got a taste of that gold in 2003 after building a 350-square-foot off-grid dwelling for Minnesota Orchestra violinist Stephanie Arado near Lake Pepin, Wis. Dubbed the weeHouse, materials for the tiny building included Douglas Fir, customized IKEA built-in cabinetry and fibercement siding—all built in-factory by Warner and a team of craftsmen (including fellow CEZ artisans Scott McGlasson and Lucas Alm) and delivered to the site on the back of a semi-trailer. That home, now moved to Arado’s backyard in Minneapolis, was the first of a long line of weeHouses built for clients throughout the country.
“We’ve been fussing with that formula over the last dozen years,” Warner says.
You can see the work of Warner and his crew when they open Alchemy Architects’ doors on Thursday, Feb. 25, from 5 to 8 p.m., for the CEZ’s second monthly We Make It Here mixer. You’ll know you’re