Documenting a personal quest for non-toxic housing.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The Owner-Built Home
This now somewhat rare 1972 book by grandfather of the sustainable building movement Ken Kern offers an incredible wealth of practical information in an astoundingly small package, even accounting for the aging of some of its product details. A must for anyone with an interest in sustainable or low-toxic architecture. Here one can find in condensed form an overview of every major building technique in the contemporary repertoire of sustainable construction and design. The book is also an exceptional example of high quality self-published literature -still a radical notion when its was first published. It's amazing how little has actually changed in the general technology and theory of sustainable building since the 1970s -aside from the very high-tech concepts and products of the predominately European Eco-Tech movement. Though I'm reluctant to recommend a book this rare -I chanced on my own copy in a Santa Fe thrift store- it appears some copies are readily found on-line.
Z-Box - Rooms As Furniture
This recent article from the Gizmodo gadget blog as well as this article from the Apartment Therapy blog detail and interesting example of design by Dan Hizel that is especially relevant to this site's on-going commentary on the subject of 'pavilion' and 'skybreak architecture.
Dubbed the Z-Box, this item is a 12'x12'x10' free-standing box structure designed for use in loft apartments which houses an elegant wood paneled bedroom space surrounded by an internally illuminated collection of cabinets, closets and shelves and equipped with its own power outlets. This clever structure appears to be composed of a simple angle-iron frame -perhaps after the example of work by designer Andrea Zittel- which is externally covered in a stainless steel optical screening panel that creates the impression of translucence. Purported to soon be the basis of a modular kit of parts intended for owner-assembly and ease of apartment loft installation, the supposed current price tag of some $18,000 will probably keep this out of Ikea's catalog. Another example of the miraculous alchemical powers of contemporary architects...
Readers of this site, and fans of contemporary architecture, will immediately see the analogy here to the mobile Japanese-style room boxes of Shigeru Ban's much-publicised Naked House, though the modular component system and volumetric use of tight apartment space hails back to the Living Structures work of Ken Isaacs.
Z-Box presents a very good demonstration of the kind of light modular habitat structures I've frequently described in my commentary on skybreak housing (a concept based on the use of large span wind/rain shelter structures like pillow-panel domes and permanent tents as shelters for light quick-built habitable structures that can be easily built and modified by their occupants) and pavilion housing. (homes based on free-standing roof structures enclosed in glass or other material panels used as free-standing equivalents of loft space adapted into rooms with modular partition structures and free-standing furniture) However, it seems likely that the average person may do equally as well or better in terms of look and cost using light modular post-and-beam structures of wood or the ubiquitous aluminum T-slot framing. There is great untapped potential in this notion of merging room and furniture, both in terms of novel design and the prospects for easy end-user construction and the spontaneous adaptability that 21st century lifestyles demand. And as the choice of materials in the Z-Box suggests, the prospects are also quite good for meeting the needs of chemically sensitive users. Lets hope this design venue sees much more exploration.