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The DIY of Architecture

Erin Gigl

In the wake of the 2008 U.S. housing crisis and Great Recession, people had to rely on resources other than money, and the movement of autonomous and collaborative initiatives was born.

In a 2013 Ted Talk, Wikihouses founder Alastair Parvin asks, “Who are the people that make cities?” Around the same time, resourceful citizens began DIYing unique projects such as Jono Williams’ Skysphere, entirely self-crafted and solar-powered, and Kodasema’s movable concrete house Koda.

Architects across the globe are taking the future of shelter into their own hands by creating public initiatives such as MASS design group’s ongoing educational project harmonizes local citizens with the construction of their own community, acquiring the tools and knowledge necessary to be autonomous. Collective thinking is expanding. Today, we are shifting from an architecture of buildings to an architecture of people.

Power in Numbers

Ideas are being shared and plans are made collaboratively by people of all positions, not only architects. Comparable to an open-table discussion, participation is possible online, in a global network known as Open Source Architecture (OSArc). Blueprints can be downloaded from numerous sharing sites, and interactive design software is becoming the tool of choice.

Similar to MASS’s prevision of a community-integrated future, Alejandro Aravena instigated the incremental public-housing project in Chile, providing a basic foundation for dwellers to take over and continue construction. This year the architect won a Pritzker Prize for the project’s resourcefulness that allows independence and skill-building as well as class stability. Yet Aravena, founder of the firm Elemental, thought the effort could expand, so he open-sourced four of the half-house designs online for global use.

Joana Pacheco opposed the two extremes in architecture, where state-of-the-art design is an option for an entitled few and accessible design plans remain plain. So she founded Paperhouses, where users can download world-class architectural plans created by skilled architects—the first of its kind. Access to plans like the Bolt House designed by Panorama reminds us that design isn’t a luxury (see featured image). It’s for everyone.

Still thinking about the individual’s needs, the Open Building Institute leaves the final result up to its users by providing open source designs of Structural Modules. Various modules offer precise information for all elements of the home—walls, roofs, doors—and incorporate plans for appliances and utilities, furniture and even building materials, so that one can imagine a space from the inside out. Its library of modules is employable through the Sweet Home 3D interior design software that can be downloaded on their site.

Courtesy of Panorama
Courtesy of Panorama

The movable concrete house Koda. Courtesy of Kodasema. Photo by Paul Kuimet.

Tatiana Bilbao by Design Vanguard. Berlin Art Prize 2012. Courtesy of Paperhouses

Courtesy of the Open Building Institute

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