Department of Cool: Housing Division

Not to go all MIT on y’all, but this piece from the news office hit my desktop today.

The gist:  a design studio taught within the MIT Department of Architecture in 2009 posed the challenge of coming up with a house design that could be built for $1,000, with the idea that such housing could be used in the wake of natural disasters like the then fresh-in-memory Sichuan earthquake of 2008.

Masters student Ying chee Chui came up with a 500 square foot dwelling that has now been built in a town in Sichuan for $5,925.  Dubbed a “Pinwheel House,”…

It has a modular layout, with rectangular room units surrounding a central courtyard space. “The module can be duplicated and rotated, and then it becomes a house,” Chui says. “The construction is easy enough, because if you know how to build a single module, you can build the whole house.”

Part of the boost in cost from the design target came from enlarging the original plan to 800 sq. ft., and part reflects prototyping costs — but the point is being made:  there are alternative approaches to both design and construction methodology that can produce good housing for a much larger swath of the world’s people than now possess it.

Two postscripts:  first:  this year’s version of the same studio course is looking at $10K houses for Japan in the wake of the earthquake-tsunami disaster.

Second:  the linked article is sadly lacking in the heart of the cool — the tech within and the details of the layout and production methods for the Sichuan prototype as it now exists.  I’ll try to track those down and post later.

Image:  Meister der Weltenchronik, Construction of the Tower of Babel, c. 1380

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