Robert Bruno’s steel house is more than just a building – it is a masterpiece of art and engineering synthesizing all of his aesthetic and engineering talents in a single spectacular structure. Weighing over 100 tons, this is one of the most amazing buildings ever constructed by a passionate individual – only possible with the right synthesis of vision, skill and patience. It was built by the self-styled artist, architect and sculptor, and remains one of Texas’s most iconic structures.
The work itself is worthy of the strange new architectural stars like Frank Gehry who bend space and structure to their whims – only this example was made carefully, piece by piece, a work in progress constructed by hand. Also unlike many of his architectural all-star contemporaries, Bruno made the steel of his structure itself structural – rather than relying on a wood or metal frame to hold it together.
The form was not predetermined. In fact, Bruno did not even realize he was embarking upon the greatest work of his life when he started the project as a simple steel volume. It has grown and multiplied in all directions, expanded spatially in ways the designer never expected. It is not the paragon of functionality but nor is it meant to be. It remains a work of eclectic aesthetics but undeniable genius.
Bruno died in 2008, and his daughter put the unusual steel house up for sale in 2021. It sold for a reputed $1.5 million, and will apparently be turned into a vacation rental in the future.
From Texas Monthly:
“The Steel House is made of quarter-inch Corten steel, a material commonly used in modernist sculpture but uncommon in architecture. Corten is a good conductor of heat, which means that it must be heavily insulated against Lubbock’s hot summers and cold winters. It’s also heavy. The house weighs 110 tons—about 10 tons more than a Boeing 757—which Bruno was able to calculate easily because he purchased the scrap metal he used by the pound. Martinez recalls that when he was a teenager, years before he went to work for Bruno, he would drive through Ransom Canyon with his father and see sparks flying through the air. ‘I asked my dad what they were, and he said, ‘Mijo, that’s a man building a house made out of steel.’ ”
“In a Texas Country Reporter interview recorded near the end of his life, Bruno said, ‘It would have been a lot easier to have a master plan from the beginning, but it wouldn’t have been better, just different, okay? Easy isn’t the only thing that matters, and if easy really mattered very much to me, I sure as heck wouldn’t be doing this. This is about spiritual values. The objective was not to move in and have a place to live; I can do that anywhere. The objective was to do something.'”