A review of artist Robert Bruno’s sculptural Steel House, Lubbock, Texas

Robert Bruno and his house of welded steel

Texas gives the world lots of strange and interesting facts. More wool comes from the state of Texas than any other state in the United States, the first word ever spoken from the moon by a human being was ‘Houston’, and the world's first rodeo was held in Pecos on July 4, 1883.

Texas is a tough landscape filled with tough, hardworking and independent people.Texans are famous for being tough and in Texas and that seems to go for their artists as well. Take Robert Bruno for example, at the age of 29 he started on a large scale project. I wonder if he knew on the day he started, just how all-consuming this project would become. I wonder if it ever entered his mind he had just started his own magnum opus.

Robert Bruno’s house of welded steel, Texas

Robert Bruno’s house of welded steel, Texas

Robert Bruno’s house of welded steel was originally conceived to be a large scale steel sculpture. Then is was decided by Robert to make it into a single story house, then...well then, Robert Bruno spent the next 33 years of his life designing, with an absolutely meticulous determination and care, the huge, 110 ton steel structure that became known as ‘The Steel House.’ Robert built the house himself. He did not build it to build a house, he built it because he loved working in steel, he loved creating sculpture.

The house, which can be found close to Lubbock, Texas, is actually build on the side of a canyon, is not a huge house, it has an area of around 2700 square feet or around 250 square meters.

For the love of steel

The artist never really explained where his influences came from, he never tried to justify his work, he just want to form these shapes out of steel, so he did. The building/structure does not seem to have any concept. Some people see a resemblance to cars from the 50’s some people see insect carapaces, others see a home that would be quite happy on a canyon site on Mars. The house to me, is more or less a thought experiment in free accusation. A very rare, very solid object in a field that normally only takes place in thought.

I understand that before the steel house, Robert was working on steel sculptures of quite large scale. He finished one he could stand under and he liked the feel of being there. That was the seed for his steel house structure.

An architectural sculptor and an organic structure

Robert Bruno was an artist, not a conceptual artist, he is quoted as saying,

“This house doesn’t deal with concept at all,” he says. “I’m not trying to have something re-emerge in the guise of my house.” The house hitches itself to no stylistic wagons and has been spontaneously designed and revised over the course of its 33-year construction. “What you’re seeing is 33 years of design, not three months of design and 33 years of labour.”

Robert considered himself to be an architectural sculptor and artist. He made the actual shell or skin of the building, the structural component. Nothing was formed over beam or used as cladding. The skin of the house, is the house.

The vast majority of steel panels or elements were cut and welded on site.

“A lot of the shapes are helped along by the material itself, saying, ‘This is what comes naturally,’” he says.’

Naturally, it seems, Bruno’s house wants to express itself organically, even despite steel’s reputation as a primary tool in humankind’s arsenal of the artificial environment. Its pleasingly brusque, ruddy- brown color is only the result of rust and decay and to be honest, quite trendy, now know as a cor-ten finish.

I have found it extremely difficult to find any information on the actual construction of the house. I can not find out if the house is insulated. I imagine it must be because Texas is searingly hot. I can’t see any air conditioning or any services entering or leaving the building. I know that the house is made mainly from quarter inch steel plate or 6mm. The steel that the structure built from was bought as scrap so the house was not too expensive. I can not see electrical outlets etc.

Robert lived in the house for for a few months in 2008, just a short time before he died from cancer. I am not sure if the house was completely finished or even if it ever needed to be finished. I can not find other examples of Robert’s work.

Inside Robert Bruno’s steel house

Inside Robert Bruno’s steel house

By Richard Storer-Adam
Managing Director of Double Stone Steel Ltd.

Here we look at every kind of architecture, often including steel and other metals of course, current and historical usually by famous and influential architects but sometimes by names that are surprisingly lesser known.

The Castelar Building, Madrid, Spain – a glass lantern floating above the Paseo de la Castellana - Double Stone Steel

The Castelar Building, Madrid, Spain – a glass lantern floating above the Paseo de la Castellana

The conviction of Rafael de La-Hoz Arderius and Gerardo Olivares to build a minimalist sculpture of steel, glass and travertine on an urban scale.

The story of how the Petersen Automotive Museum leapt into the 21st century with a futuristic steel exoskeleton design strongly influenced by car culture - Double Stone Steel

The story of how the Petersen Automotive Museum leapt into the 21st century with a futuristic steel exoskeleton design strongly influenced by car culture

Robin Fisher explores this building, located at the gateway of Los Angeles' famous Museum Row, extensively renovated through the work of Kohn Pedersen Fox and A.Zahner.

The US Steel Tower, a lasting beacon on the Pittsburgh skyline and legacy of Andrew Carnegie - Double Stone Steel

The US Steel Tower, a lasting beacon on the Pittsburgh skyline and legacy of Andrew Carnegie

Richard Storer-Adam reviews the design and construction of this 64-story skyscraper, built in the 1970’s with Cor-Ten steel, symbolising the triumph of the US Steel industry.

The design story of the Seagram Building, 375 Park Avenue, New York City, built in 1957 - Double Stone Steel

The design story of the Seagram Building, 375 Park Avenue, New York City, built in 1957

Richard Storer-Adam reviews the background and architecture of this iconic modernist glass and bronze tower by German-American architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe and American associate architect Philip Cortelyou Johnson.

An examination of the design theory behind Seattle Central Library by OMA - Double Stone Steel

An examination of the design theory behind Seattle Central Library by OMA

Antonio Moll reviews the first work by the Dutch Office in the USA, 16 years after its opening, considering what is probably the most disrupting piece of architecture of the 21st Century.

The Flatiron Building (originally the Fuller Building), designed by Daniel H. Burnham and built in 1902 - Double Stone Steel

The Flatiron Building (originally the Fuller Building), designed by Daniel H. Burnham and built in 1902

Richard Storer-Adam dwells on the genesis of NYC’s most iconic skyscraper and ‘quintessential symbol’ of Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA named after the Flatiron district.

Looking at metals that have been popular for hundreds of years and also some modern new-comers that re currently fashionable.

The process of anodization and its early applications in aviation through to modern day consumer electronics - Double Stone Steel

The process of anodization and its early applications in aviation through to modern day consumer electronics

Richard Storer-Adam explains how metals are altered through anodizing and the anti-corrosive benefits and coloring options this process provides to product manufacturers.

The applications of Cor-Ten steel - from its beginnings in the US railroad industry to the worlds of art and architecture - Double Stone Steel

The applications of Cor-Ten steel - from its beginnings in the US railroad industry to the worlds of art and architecture

Richard Storer-Adam runs through how this weathering steel alloy quickly moved beyond transport uses to give a distinct, rusted look to some iconic buildings and sculptures.

The story of gold and gold leaf – how was gold formed, its decorative value and the 5000- year old process of gilding. - Double Stone Steel

The story of gold and gold leaf – how was gold formed, its decorative value and the 5000- year old process of gilding.

Richard Storer-Adam rounds up some interesting facts about how this fascinating metal has been used throughout history to coat other materials.

The basics of Physical Vapour Deposition - Double Stone Steel

The basics of Physical Vapour Deposition

Imagine creating colored stainless steel was a cooking process - Federico de Paoli gives an explanation of the PVD process involving titanium, thermal evaporation, sputtering and ion-plating using comparisons from everyday life.

Stainless steel interior and exterior cladding - Double Stone Steel

Stainless steel interior and exterior cladding

Richard Storer-Adam investigates the use of stainless steel as cladding used decoratively for interiors and exteriors of buildings, including the famous Frank Gehry New York skyscraper, with a focus on its durability, aesthetic qualities and technical performance.

The rise and fall in popularity of the copper alloys, brass and bronze, in art and architecture from 3500 BC to  the twentieth century - Double Stone Steel

The rise and fall in popularity of the copper alloys, brass and bronze, in art and architecture from 3500 BC to the twentieth century

Richard Storer-Adam looks at these wonder metals, both alloys of copper and tin, that last the ages and how they compare to each other in practical and artistic use.

As chemical elements metals make up twenty-five per cent of the Earth’s crust and have been since Copper was first used 11,000 years ago.

The process of anodization and its early applications in aviation through to modern day consumer electronics - Double Stone Steel

The process of anodization and its early applications in aviation through to modern day consumer electronics

Richard Storer-Adam explains how metals are altered through anodizing and the anti-corrosive benefits and coloring options this process provides to product manufacturers.

The applications of Cor-Ten steel - from its beginnings in the US railroad industry to the worlds of art and architecture - Double Stone Steel

The applications of Cor-Ten steel - from its beginnings in the US railroad industry to the worlds of art and architecture

Richard Storer-Adam runs through how this weathering steel alloy quickly moved beyond transport uses to give a distinct, rusted look to some iconic buildings and sculptures.

Nickel (Ni)  – part of a series on metals commonly alloyed with stainless steel to form varying grades of material. - Double Stone Steel

Nickel (Ni) – part of a series on metals commonly alloyed with stainless steel to form varying grades of material.

Richard Storer-Adam looks into the origins of nickel, the part it plays in the composition of the planet and the industrial uses that make it a valuable metal alloy.

Chromium (Cr) – The discovery of chromium, its origins and wide-ranging industrial and aesthetic applications - Double Stone Steel

Chromium (Cr) – The discovery of chromium, its origins and wide-ranging industrial and aesthetic applications

Richard Storer-Adam continues a series on metals commonly alloyed with stainless steel to form varying grades of material.

Richard Storer-Adam is Managing Director of Double Stone Steel Ltd.

Titanium (Ti) – a brief history of the origins and commercial applications of titanium - Double Stone Steel

Titanium (Ti) – a brief history of the origins and commercial applications of titanium

Richard Storer-Adam begins a series on metals commonly alloyed with stainless steel to form varying grades of material.

The Acid Etching process on stainless steel and other metals. - Double Stone Steel

The Acid Etching process on stainless steel and other metals.

An explanation of the truly ancient art of engraving, etching and intaglios on copper, mild steel, aluminium, brass and stainless steel by Richard Storer-Adam.