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Institute without Boundaries World House Project
Sarah Rich, 5 Mar 06

IwB.jpg Many of you will be familiar with Bruce Mau and the Institute without Boundaries, who created Massive Change—the exhibition and book on the Future of Global Design that made a big splash a few years back, and who continue to work with young innovators to produce visionary design work.

Now the Institute without Boundaries has a new undertaking in the works, inviting academics, industry professionals, and community members, to help design a home for the future. The World House Project is a fundamentally collaborative and multi-disciplinary effort. Guided by projections about the 3 billion developing world citizens who will need shelter in 2030, the project aims to address the extremes of slums and sprawl by creating a dwelling appropriate to the world we'll have in 20, 30, 50 years.

To practice design effectively today we need to eliminate boundaries between designers and other professionals, and between designers and the local and global constituents they serve.
We need new models that are collaborative, holistic models that consider the ecology, social equity, cultural values and economic properties.
We need a vision that affirms the possibility of developing healthy and creatively interactive relationships between the natural environment and human settlements.
We need an affirmative design agenda that encourages us to create beautiful, healthy, sustaining environments for human and natural communities.

The Institute without Boundaries will enroll fifteen applicants for their first year of work. The team will learn experientially, through the research, development and realization of a local design project. The core team will be aided and complemented by input from leading experts and creative advisors. The end product of this multi-year venture will be a World House that can be built locally, affordably and easily.

What if we could design buildings that produce their own oxygen, distill water, accrue solar energy, change with the seasons and produce no waste?
What if we used biomimicry to foster development of sustainable homes and communities? What if the strategies of conservation, stewardship, regeneration, health and ethics were applied to building both the home and the city?
What if we could design living environments to be usable by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation?
What if buildings could interact, think, grow and change as we do over time?

We can think of a few possibilities...

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it should be an Autonomous Building

i think that houses should be like a glass bottle: you don't have to make them locally, but you can, and they should be cheap and last forever if properly maintained!

Posted by: vinay on 6 Mar 06

I often wonder why so little mention (almost none) is made of what appears to me to be the most fundamental problem -- over-population. There are too many of us, and we need to look at ways to significantly reduce (by attrition) our number. However, to judge by the dearth of public discussion of this idea, it is taboo, or almost so.

Am I right about that?

Posted by: Anonymous Bosch on 6 Mar 06

Claims that the world is over-populated don't make it so. Care to offer any evidence to that effect?

Posted by: sedicious on 6 Mar 06

We've been working on our living home for the last six months, building in Second Life and in our media production studio for a live action series made to model these ideas to kids. We started with and piezoelectricity and imagined living crystals, smart and adaptable, quickly-growing and able to symbiotically support the creatures that call it home.

Thanks for the links!

Posted by: evonne on 6 Mar 06

This is definitaly a stimulating project. I certainly hope it will include an important reflexion on the possibility to make it an adaptable housing system. By adaptable, I mean a house that can built from many different types of (hopefully regional) material and offer an adequate level of comfort in most of Earth's ecosystem.

As I said, this is a very stimulating project, but I think it would be a mistake to create this one-desing-fits-all kind of house. I believe the goal should resemble creating a desing system which would offer some basis for obtaining the "ideal" human indoor living environment, through a flexible design protocol. By including, first and foremost, the aspect of flexibility in the design, and hopefully, the design system, the instigators of the projet would, I beleive, assure themselves a greater level of success.

Moreover, a universal house design can only be universal if it take into account that most humans do not possess the material ressources we are used to in richer countries. Of course, we all hope that poverty on Earth will soon dissapear, but until then, the design solutions must keep this factor in mind.

Posted by: Guillaume Pomerleau on 6 Mar 06

This is a wonderful push towards better thinking, but I don't think the solution lies in creating an ideal house. One of the biggest problems I see with suburbia today is the development of houses that people want without any concept of neighborhood/community planning. What is necessary more than a one-house design competition is a model of urban planning that can most effectively get all within a neighborhood the services necessary for life. A perfect house built in a place where the inhabitant has to drive 20 miles to the grocery store, doctor, or community park space is not well designed, no matter its internal capabilities. Respectfully,

Posted by: Jeremy Osborn on 7 Mar 06

most of the sustainable housing projects seem to suffer from a dearth of modeling with regards to population and density. They also seem to suffer from a lack of historical awareness. If you want to maximize open space, I'd believe but have not modeled that you will find housing will look like a big-box multiple stories tall with all of the subsequent economic distortions.[1]

on the historical front, look back to the waves of immigrants moving into cities. Without individual ownership and responsibility for property and social structures protecting their safety, it's highly likely we will move back the slums of the 1800/1900s with high-density housing. More modern examples include high-rise projects with territories marked out by gangs. This is not to say that all high-density housing projects have these characteristics but that's the historical record.

At the same time, Suburban sprawl is untenable but controlling that with villagelike structures introduces a different set of economic distortions. villages will support only one maybe two stores in the given type which puts the local village under a form of an economic monopoly. One reason why suburbanites drive for miles is because people want to choose which store they shop, or which doctor they use. Putting up with the one that's available whether they are any good or not just won't fly. For example, I will go to any one of four groceries and one organic farm within 10 or 15 miles of home depending on what I see is on sale or on my way with other errands. "sustainable" models don't account for this form of economic or trust driven behavior

so whether I live in a village, urban hell, or suburban limbo, my patterns of driving would be basically the same. The only thing that would change is quality of life. Having lived in all three environments, I know the suburban or rural life works best for me.

[1] in the same year, my wife and I purchased a 2000 square-foot house on one acre of land and my friend purchased a thousand square-foot condo on the ninth floor of a rather tall building. We paid the same amount for our respective properties . We have more control, we have a better environment (i.e. trees, garden, blueberry garden) and she has asphalt, walking distance to stores and restaurants and other places to spend her money. Different things for different people.

Posted by: esjatharvee on 8 Mar 06

The discussion thus far brings to mind the Ehrlich I=PAT equation ( (I)mpact on the environment = (P)opulation * (A)ffluence * (T)echnology). If the goal of the project, is to decrease the environmental impact, then in the case of a densely populated project, the factors of affluence and technology must be used in tandem to keep the impacts to a minimum.

Affluence, while originally defined as per capita income, needs to be redefined in terms of "impact dollars." Factors such as mileage traveled, resource use intensity and toxicity all need to be considered. For instance locally produced goods and environmentally benign goods would have a much lower value than "conventional" goods.

Technology would go hand-in-hand with the calculation of affluence, as reduced-impact technologies (designed with the reversibility approach, of course) were implemented to increase well-being (both ecosystem and societal) while simultaneously reducing the impacts of the production and consumption of goods.

In the recent past, technology has stayed just one step ahead of the burgeoning needs of population, if there is indeed a carrying capacity to Earth, we have probably passed it already and the use of technology has enabled us to maintain the current state. This isn't to say that the question of population shouldn't be addressed, even if it is addressed today, population wouldn't stabilize for many decades.

Posted by: David Zaks on 8 Mar 06

..." the Institute without Boundaries has a new undertaking in the works, inviting academics, industry professionals, and community members,"... W/$12,000... "to help design a home for the future. The World House Project is a fundamentally collaborative and multi-disciplinary effort"... for those who have, can, and/or are willing to finance the $12,000 investment. Not a very economically inclusive undertaking in my opinion. Any dwellers from shanty towns participating as designers?

Posted by: invisiblecities on 9 Mar 06



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