Articles

Designing Mobile Homes for the New Wanderers

by Allison Meier on August 26, 2014

The "Aero-Mobile" pop-up structure on a scissor lift designed by the Office of Mobile Design (photograph by Tom Kessler, courtesy KANEKO)

The “Aero-Mobile” pop-up structure on a scissor lift designed by the Office of Mobile Design (photograph by Tom Kessler, all images via KANEKO)

Homeownership has been on the decline in the United States, drifting down to 64.8% in the first quarter of 2014, per the Census Bureau’s report earlier this year. While that’s still a majority, it’s a low unmatched since 1995. This is not to syllogize that all Americans are on the move, but it does seem like a more nomadic lifestyle is gaining hold.

This can be seen in the increasing focus on mobile design, such as Truck-A-Tecture that just closed at KANEKO, a nonprofit art and science space in Omaha, Nebraska. The exhibition featured four architecture groups roaming in from around the West with prototypes for new mobile housing. “A lot of aspects of architectural history have been around changing the idea of what is a home, what is architecture as a fixed element,” architect Mark Mack explained at the symposium for the exhibition.

Inflation of the "pneumad" (courtesy min | day)

Inflation of the Pneumad structure (courtesy min | day)

Pop-up system of the "Aero-Mobile" (courtesy Office of Mobile Design)

Pop-up system of the “Aero-Mobile” (courtesy Office of Mobile Design)

The design from Mark Mack Architects of Venice, California, has a compact trailer that breaks out into a sleeping loft with a covering tent, and plenty of adaptable elements. Likewise, the designs from the other firms emphasized fitting a whole living space into something you could pack along on a vehicle, from Min | Day, based in both San Francisco and Omaha, presenting the Pneumad, with a roomy inflatable dome powered by a pneumatic system all tucked in a trailer, to Jennifer Siegal of the Office for Mobile Design, also based in Venice, imagining a scissor lift-powered Aero-Mobile that folds out into a protected space. Then there’s Wes Jones of LA-based Jones Partners, with the solar-powered Mobile Dwelling Support Structure, where eight units on a trailer provide the functions of an entire house, from kitchen to sleeping.

This idea of the modern nomad is a romantic one, and the designs, while impressive in their flexible function and eye to mobility, are still better for perhaps a month of travel on the roads rather than a full-time home (Mark Mack planned to take his pop-up sleeping loft to Burning Man). And of course, being on the move has been the norm for the majority of human history. Yet in the United States, where homeownership has been such a marker of success, it’s interesting to look at the increased concentration on mobile, impermanent design.

The Mobile Dwelling Support Structure designed by Wes Jones (photograph by Tom Kessler)

The Mobile Dwelling Support Structure designed by Wes Jones (photograph by Tom Kessler)

Pop-up trailer home designed by Mark Mack Architects (photograph by Tom Kessler)

Pop-up trailer home designed by Mark Mack Architects (photograph by Tom Kessler)

Truck-A-Tecture took place at KANEKO (1111 Jones Street, Omaha, Nebraska) from June 27 to August 23.  

h/t Pop Up City

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