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Andrew Maynard's Newest Brainchild: Corb V2.0
Sarah Rich, 20 Feb 07
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Australian architect, Andrew Maynard has been featured here a couple of times, always amid abundant praise for his inspired, smart, compact shelter designs. His work is always original and elegant, often mobile and usually green.

I've just gotten the brief on his newest project and while I'm immediately enamored with it for its levity, visual presentation and complete subversion of building conventions, the verdict's still out on my overall opinion of its livability. Corb V2.0 is a multi-family housing complex that defies the structural limitations which lead to hierarchy and envy amongst residents sharing a many-story building: namely, the units' locations are fluid, rotating regularly from ground level to penthouse. Sound strange? I think so.


These may appear to be employing the ubiquitous recycled-cargo-container-as-house trend, but Maynard decries container architecture:

Why do architects keep trying to squash houses into a container? Container dimensions are terrible. Why not design a kickarse apartment and use all of the other fun toys that we find on docks to help deal with the many troubling issues that the modernist visions of dense housing have difficulty addressing?

By "all of the other fun toys," he means the container stacking machines that tower above the docks and move the boxes around. That's right, Corb V2.0 proposes placing one of these at the housing complex and letting it robotically relocate residents' units. He invokes Le Corbusier's "machine for living" concept, suggesting that the modernist utopian vision (about which Jer wrote a great design rant once) "were corrupted through economic rationalism and urban design empty of imagination and responsibility devoid of values." So Corb V2.0 proposes using modern infrastructure to address the "social hierarchy and lack of adaptability or responsiveness" that plague traditional apartment blocks.

Through the mobility afforded by shipping equipment, the utopian ideal is once more subverted back to a housing solution, which Corbusier dreamt of back in '23.
Within Corb V2.0 spatial hierarchies, traditionally determined by wealth, and the implied status these evoke, are dissolved, real estate values become flattned, and a new lifestyle alternative [already adopted in mobile technologies such as phones and laptops] begins to emerge in housing.

Here are some configuration options presented in the concept overview:




There are also giant circular configurations built around green courtyards.

Programmable options on the stacker allow the walls to be configured such that they create color block designs, and flat-sided stacks can be used as giant movie screens. The power required to keep the stacking machine operating all day and night will supposedly be generated by on-site wind turbines, though having just discussed this scale of wind power generation, and the challenges of rooftop turbine placement, I'm curious whether this will be possible for such a huge industrial machine.

The main question I have is whether people in general would really want their home picked up and moved by a giant machine at regular intervals. I imagine the experience growing tiresome quickly. Nevertheless, overall I love the concept for challenging our thinking around residential stasis, for employing a new relic of industry in its reuse strategy, and for the boldness and humor with which the idea has been presented. Trusting 100% in Andrew Maynard's genius, I'll patiently await updates on this utterly unique new vision.


(You can see the whole project PDF, including a great little cartoon, here.)

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This is so very cool.

Posted by: Will Pierce on 19 Feb 07

Could it be that the original article may have been intended for the April edition of some design magazine or other?

Still, in the spirit of finding the pieces *and* putting them together, I'm sure the concept could incorporate the Aerial Tram!

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 19 Feb 07

I'm sorry, but I find it ugly.

New Urbanism, eco-cities and all that other good energy saving stuff can be built to last centuries, built using local energy efficient products, and does not waste energy moving the thing around because of "social status". (Imagine forgetting to lock down your crockery, disconnect the power, unplug the toilet hose or whatever else has to happen on moving day.)

Peak oil is coming and the way we do virtually everything is going to change. It's time to get serious about energy efficiency, including dumping this silly idea. We need more talk about empowering local communities to act in preparation for the coming energy crisis, and less talk about new ways of wasting energy.

Dump this one quick Worldchanging. :-)

Posted by: Dave Lankshear on 20 Feb 07

Completely absurd and lacking in any understanding of social context. Wasteful not only in the "operation" of the structure, but in the time that could be spent putting more useful ideas into practice.

Posted by: Kevin Rose on 20 Feb 07

Wow, a couple of you need to seriously chill-out. I have been following the work of Maynard for the couple years that this young designer has been practicing. I am a big fan of what I see to date. He makes it well known that he uses polemics explorations, such as this, as a chatharsis from the duldrum of everyday architectural practice. He once described them in an interview as "quick, playful exercises to lubricate the mind"

I personaly find his playful explorations to be liberated, positive, refreshing, subversive and wonderfuly challenging. If anything we should be encouraging him to produce more of his experiments.
I think it is great that Maynard can explore such interesting concepts in such a positive, utopian way. I love that he so freely shares them with us. I dare say that the opinions stated here are destructively negative. It is simply offensive that one is seeking censor simply because it does not fit within his limited ideological scope.

Thank you Maynard for sharing your enthusiastic, fresh and youthful ideas with us. I look forward to seeing many more of them as you mature as a designer and architect. Please ignore the stifling negativity of the comments added to Sarah's fine article.

Posted by: Brian SF on 20 Feb 07

I find this akin to the shuffle function on an i-pod. When it first appeared as an option it struck me as bizarre, unnecessary and inherently unlikable. In fact, it is wonderful, inspiring and creates all kinds of new ways of listening and connecting pieces to oneanother - a whole new view on music.

This could be similar - by changing location you get a literally new view, a metaphorically new view, and no sense of entrapment since it will change again. Could be done randomly, or according to a fixed schedule, or democratically (note the screaming baby building).

I find the idea full of life! Furthermore, as more of us live in housing alone, and often travel for work, we could ensure that the empty units are put in less desirable areas, and in hard to break-into areas of the structure - a plus for everybody.

Posted by: Caroline on 20 Feb 07

It's easy to see the (-).

(+) Units could be scattered more widely in flu season (also, more surface to collect solar energy), or whenever it is that we start to grow food and energy closer to home.

(~) People would be just neighbors, with no single relative location to each other. No longer would it be true that "One man's ceiling is another man's floor" (Paul Simon).

Posted by: lugon on 21 Feb 07



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