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Sky City Challenge: The future of housing

What's the best way to figure out how to use a new product? Have a competition!

TreeHugger has been following the work of the Broad Group for a number of years, famous for their almost instant buildings. I often complained that I loved their concept but wished they would hire a talented architect, or have a design competition to see what people could do with it. More recently, I reported about their new building technology, the BCORE Panel.

This time, they have had a design competition, SkyCity Challenge 19: The Future of Housing. TreeHugger is a media sponsor, so here is the first look at the winners and honorable mentions.

The challenge was to create a build-system proposal for Broad Group, which is currently investigating their new material called BCORE. The task was to design a home that can be dismantled after a period of time and used again as if it were just simple prefab modular pieces (eg. LEGO® or IKEA®). A home made out of ready-made slabs which together form a simple disassemblable set. The prefabricated pieces had to be easily transportable using traditional shipping containers which when flat-packed are assemblable anywhere on our planet by the use of a small crew with equipment.

As so often happens in design competitions, I fell in love with the runners-up. This project, YUAN, by Canadians Louise Shin, Enica Deng, Ye Rin Choi, Wesley Fong, and Robin Nong had such a wonderful drawing and a concept based on the traditional Fujian Tulou. “The design intent brings together sustainable architecture, individual design freedom, natural environment, and communal space into this modular village.” However, the judges had their own criteria that this probably didn't meet:

Jurors analyzed the aesthetics, disassemblability, stackability, housing strategy, eco-friendliness and the off-grid possibility of the entries as well as the overall quality of the presentation itself. The jury highly valued proposals that explored the material directly and experimented with it, showing an interest in not only structural capabilities but also played with its aesthetics.

Read more about the Tulou, which have been called The Ancient Hula Hoop Buildings of China.

First Prize: Collective Geometries

The First Prize went to Manuel Lopes, Raphaelle Paire, Olga Litwa, and Maya Iwdal of Sweden for Collective Geometries. It's a really interesting scheme where the little boxes shown as isolated cabins can actually stack into tall towers.

Facing future housing shortage will require simple, fast production systems with the capacity to adapt and respond to a great array of complex scenarios and demands. Instead of trying to imagine and predict how humans will inhabit the future, COLLECTIVE GEOMETRIES aims to become a system with the embedded flexibility to face a great number of potential future scenarios, from isolated off-grid cabins to dense collective housing arrangements. A group of simple elements capable of combining into smarter collective entities.

Collective Geometries2© Collective Geometries/ Manuel Lopes, Raphaelle Paire, Olga Litwa, and Maya Iwdal

The housing unit's size and weight are kept within a “two-man handling” scale and they are joined together mechanically. The assembly and disassembly are designed to be done by simple users, except for bigger constructions where the size of a collective structure requires heavy machinery and implemented safety and work protocols. The segregation into simple pieces allows the projects to easily enlarge and shrink, trying to adapt to the end-user's changing needs and thus extending the lifecycle of individual systems.

Second Prize: “CELL HOUSE” by Daniel Marin Parra, Juan Martin Arias Cardona (Colombia)

Cell House© “CELL HOUSE” by Daniel Marin Parra, Juan Martin Arias Cardona (Colombia)

The Cell House is aimed to be a completely self-sufficient housing unit, being able to provide a simple home in places that may not be the most convenient to inhabit. In order to make this home function off-grid, photovoltaic panels are positioned on the roof that is inclined towards the sun, ensuring the highest energy collection. The house will also be equipped with a rainwater collection and purification system. The collected water will be then stored in tanks located in the base compartment of the unit and a part of it will be available for daily use, while the other part will be heated through vacuum tube – solar collectors, later stored in specially insulated tanks to conserve the temperature of the water.

technology© “CELL HOUSE” by Daniel Marin Parra, Juan Martin Arias Cardona (Colombia)

The drawing above doesn't do it justice; the section here shows all the technology, the tanks, the finishes, the things that make it work.

Third Prize:“GRASSROOTS ECO-HOME” by Soraya Somarathne (Hong-Kong)

When sustainability is no longer enough, we need to rebuild and re-grow. A low carbon footprint home, which is also a garden in its entirety, would enable us to achieve both dreams, whilst providing new-age possibilities for rural and remote eco-living. The home is composed of standard but also two special modified BCORE slabs. The first custom-made slab acts as a cladding system for vertical greening and the second slab operates as a semi-transparent window facade. The design intent is to pack soil behind the fine steel mesh to enable plant life such as grass to grow across the facades of the building. The core tubes could be plugged with transparent cylinders or covered with a glass finish to enable light to penetrate space, whilst providing views out.

More at Grassroots Eco-home

Fourth Prize: “ELASTIC HOME” by Quynh Nghi Nguyen, Tan Dat Le, Que Ly Tran, Tan Thang Nguyen (Vietnam)

Elastic Home© “ELASTIC HOME” by Quynh Nghi Nguyen, Tan Dat Le, Que Ly Tran, Tan Thang Nguyen, (Vietnam)

Can a BCORE house be like water? Formless, shapeless or formed by the shape it is filled into? Can a space be big, small, opened or closed whenever it needs to? Unifying the cuts of a standard BCORE panel into four 2x3m panels, we minimize the complexity of fabrication and maximize its flexibility. Each wall (3x2m) can either rotate or slide on the 2m-offset, contour-like grid track attached to the ceiling, thus freeing floor space from joints and brackets. By rotating and sliding, the structure can enlarge or shrink, open or close, be triangular or rectangular, reflecting its owner's personality.

More at Elastic Home

Fifth Prize: “NOSTALGIA UTOPIA” by Jiawei Liang, Tao Hong (China)

 “NOSTALGIA UTOPIA” by Jiawei Liang, Tao Hong (China)© “NOSTALGIA UTOPIA” by Jiawei Liang, Tao Hong (China)

This is a really interesting submission. Nostalgia is in short supply in China.

The project seeks to recover the memory of the inhabitants affected by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China. Due to this colossal development, many villages were flooded and this proposal tries to recover the social and private spaces on the shore and at the surface of the new artificial lake. The lightness and non-corrosiveness of BCORE suit the structure of the village. Each hexagonal module is inter-attached forming a giant floating platform. The entire first floor is a conjugated public area, while the floors above form housing. The entire floating system is equipped with fish farms, air and water purification.

More at Nostalgia Utopia.

Sixth Prize: “b” by Miguel Morillas Machetti, Elena Llácer Velert, Raquel Cullen La Rosa (Spain)

Really dense submission here; you have to go to the actual entry page and zoom in.

The “L” & “I” shaped cells grow in height and surface, repeating themselves in a chain and adapting to the terrain. The b-home allows building a temporary shelter quickly, covering the basic needs of the family for short or medium periods, enabling people to resume their normal lives rapidly. The pieces revalue the public space, for example, in urban areas which have been forgotten or temporarily create them. They can be used both in the suburbs and in urban centres during festivals, exhibitions or flea markets.

More at “b”

Seventh Prize: “LIVING FORMULA” by Jie Liu (Canada)

Life should be as easy as typing a formula. Finding a place you love, choosing the spaces that you need and changing them whenever you want. Four basic modules form the project – living room, bedroom, recreation and balcony. Each unit could be enlarged by one or more modules, based on people’s living preferences and financial conditions. The mobile app of “Living Formula” allows users to find and reserve the available space around the world to build their own space permanently or temporarily. Tenants this way regenerate their home’s layout by exchanging or adding new modules to it thus creating a vivid and dynamic community.

 “LIVING FORMULA” by Jie Liu (Canada)© “LIVING FORMULA” by Jie Liu (Canada)

This one is so well resolved and detailed, they could build it, pack it into shipping containers and send it off to Vancouver tomorrow. In fact it was all figured out; it could fit in 11 shipping containers. More at Living Formula

“SIMCITY 4.0” by Elizaveta Khaziakhmetova, Ilnar Akhtiamov, Rezeda Akhtiamova (Russia)

The concept of this co-living space is a structure that allows different people to gather in one neighbourhood. It combines various residential units and different public spaces for the interaction of their residents. The base is formed by a three-story stylobate with mixed functions, which nests home units of different sizes. There are five types of units; S, M, L, XL and XXL. All of them integrate into the structure just like a Tetris game.

This is clever, a combination of Sim City, Tetris and Lego.
More at SimCity 4.0

Tetris City

Tetris City© Tetris City

There is actually another honorable mention that is based on Tetris, by Hung Nguyen, Uyen Nguyen of Vietnam. See the rest of the honorable mentions at the SkyCityChallenge19 winners page.

The Jury Verdict notes that “very important were also the investigations of product possibilities that could be introduced into the market for its development.” They looked at these entries seriously, from the point of view of actually producing them. That's different from many ideas competitions, and why my favorite entry was an honorable mention rather than a winner. Knowing the Broad Group, I think it's likely that we will be reporting on the construction of a few of the winners in a couple of weeks.