Solange’s video for her track ‘Cranes in the Sky’ features a number of stunning tableau – the singer in a lightning-struck tree, performing a languid pirouette in the stairwell of Houston’s Alley Theatre, a frenetic duet on the ridge of a sand dune in the New Mexico desert.
But, unsurprisingly, what captured our attention were the final scenes – Solange, in billowing white, performing warrior poses atop an extraordinary ‘spaceship house’.
The rust red spaceship is in fact the Steel House, a four-legged structure that crouches over Ransom Canyon, near Lubbock, Texas. With its futuristic aesthetic and curved, swooping edges, it could be a Bond villain’s lair, but in fact it sprung from the mind of artist and sculptor Robert Bruno, who built it himself, welding every piece of steel by hand.
Having moved from California in 1971 to teach art at Texas State University, Bruno began sketching the plans for what would become the Steel House in 1973. Despite not having an architecture license, he was given open-ended planning permission for the project, which would take more than thirty years to build, and still be incomplete on his death in 2008.
Entered by a gangplank from the road, the structure has three principal levels. At its heart is the living room, a huge space punctuated by tree-like pillars, irregular windows offering dramatic views over the canyon. The top floor, accessed by a spiral staircase, is a single airy expanse with a patio off to the side. Downstairs, in the hollow legs, Bruno had plans for a library and an aquarium.
The interior decoration was to be elaborate – the artist wanted to plaster the walls with castings taken of naked women, soft curves to contrast with the stark metals planes of the exterior.
Despite the house being conceived as his future abode, Bruno was in no great hurry. ‘I’m not particularly concerned about having a house,’ he said. ‘I build it because I like sculpture.’ He did live there briefly, moving into the building site in the last few months of his life, when the diagnosis of terminal colon cancer made it clear that he wouldn’t live to see it finished.
The house has stayed untouched since his death, windows smashed, the inside left open to the elements. But things are looking up. In 2014, Texas Tech University purchased one of Bruno’s sculptures, with the $35,000 proceeds being set aside for the upkeep of the Steel House. Slowly but surely, it is gaining interest as a tourist attraction – a rival to Lubbock’s other claim to fame as the birthplace of Buddy Holly.
Solange dancing on its roof can only be a boon to its fortune.