01 April 2010

Instant Modern Architecture

(Friday's post appears today, Thursday, as I won't be able to post this on Friday.)

The idea is so genius, I am baffled that no one came up with it before. 

Encouraged by the national housing slump, discouraged by the lack of truly affordable and portable modernist housing, a bright and energetic team based in Fayetteville, NC, set out to tackle not one, but several previously unknown architectural problems at the same time. Joining forces with Nuclear Ranch magazine’s Minimalist Housing for Mobile Modern Masses series, they injected the word Inflatable into the project.

Team members Irmgård Kea, industrial designer last seen working on the Icarus-project, Wilburdeen Kamphoefner, an immensely promising older architect, and Franz Xaver Emmanuel Matts-Schwätzerle, Australian inflatable manufacturer with family roots in the Black Forest, bumped into each other in Munich last year during a barbecue competition and hit it off right away over some pulled pork and starkbier.

The idea was to come up with simple, modernist, transportable housing that would be easy to produce, sell for under $50,000, and should inflate in less than 7,992 hours with either a foot-pump or the aid of widely available CO2-bottles used for bicycle tires or sparkling water. 

Their first design concept looked promising, if not challenging for an inflatable design:

A few setbacks followed. Several details got lost or changed on the way from model building to the first prototype, as Kea readily admits during a phone interview: “We got a bit carried away during the design process and may not have consulted enough with Franz Xaver Emmanuel", the producer:

First prototype

Undeterred, Matts-Schwätzerle sneakily redesigned the prototype during an espresso break of his fellow team-members. It leaned to the other extreme by radically throwing out practically all of the non-essential elements:
Now it was Kamphoefner's turn. Potentially influenced by the Sunday family ritual of church followed by a pub-crawl, which he both had to attend from when he was five years old, he suggested two fresh design variants. Not really modernist, neither Kea nor Matts-Schwätzerle really fancied them:

Another, even less modernist design, scribled on the wrapper of a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte made by Matts-Schwätzerle's great-grandmother Franzi Xaverine Emmanuela, was the final straw that made the bucket overflow, causing a “furious discussion” (remembers Kea) among the team members about the general direction of the project:
Another modernist design proposal infiltrated by childhood memories

Only during that session, approaching the cliff of breakup over the fruitless progress, the team had one single inspired moment, and within minutes came up with the final design on the back of a napkin. The result: a classic modernist shape of timeless beauty inside and out.

Final design, exterior


Final design, interior 

Production at Matts-Schwätzerle facility in Mamungkukumpurangkuntjunya Hill, AU, is slated to begin with months. And while all three team members admit they are not rocket surgeons, they are elated they finally agreed on something that combines modernism, practicality, livability, portability and inflatability in one solid package. I'm sure it will be rather successful.

– Happy Easter to you!

Photos: boingboing, Vector, Interactivegame, Pfiff!, Inflatable World, Universität Kassel

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