revisiting the American cabin
1967 • 1975 • 1979 • 2002
Sometimes an architectural idea hangs around long enough that it gets real intense about getting built. I keep coming back to this one. Maybe 2003 is the time. This project is an effective way to prototype several useful concepts: Temporary foundations; prefabricated movable building (+/- 100 pieces); “breathable” exterior membrane; contoured, non-flat floors; self-contained, off-the-grid, energy alternatives; greenhouse food production; and, a non-traditional space form-factor. The EcoSphere is a true “EarthShip” concept; it is conceived to move and rest (for awhile) gently on the Earth and then economically move again.
The membrane is the most challenging and, perhaps, interesting aspect of this design. All exterior walls, of any building, are indeed membranes for they do not keep everything in or out. And, in this era of so-called energy efficiency, we try to do that; which is not how nature works - consider your skin as an example; it is a sophisticated input/output organ, the largest of the entire body. Attempting to build absolute barriers is neither possible nor efficient and certainly not healthy. The interior air quality and compounding of pollutants in the average building is a scandal just waiting for its time. The SKIN of EcoSphere is to be made up of a series of semi-permeable materials that allow different gasses (via partial pressures) and radiation (light & heat) to pass in and out as conditions warrant. The building BREATHS as is required for comfort and health. Besides this being a far more effective strategy for energy management, this embodies LIFE into the building by bringing a life-like aspect to it. Permeability will be achieved two ways: first by the materials themselves directly responding to air, light and temperature and adjusting in various ways, secondly, by the external panels, related to the geodesic architecture, opening and closing by user instruction and programmed protocols. The “pure” geometry shown in the pictures of the model, therefore, will never actually be seen this way as the building will always be “articulating” as it seeks the optimum balancing of internal and external energies. This is the skin strategy for Wideness Mega City although on a much larger scale than Ecophere.
The interior space of EcoSphere provides and entirely different experience than the typical residential concept. It is related, in this regard, to Domicile, the Bay Area Studio and Gail’s Nest projects. This concept rejects the “flatness” of floors and walls and their being treated a intrinsically different elements. WHY? Other than some building conventions that derive from primitive mathematical and fabrication means, what argument is there that dictates this design assumption as a default practice? The space of EcoSphere is continuous and punctuated with linear elements. These two aspects, together set up a dynamic that can be crafted so as to make the exact sensibility required for each sub-space, of the entire environment, respond exactly to its real conditions as they change. The old concept of floors, walls, ceilings gives way to the structure providing in each PLACE the combination of shape, finish, form and texture appropriate for what is happening there. The “view” in and out of the structure - through a MEMBRANE that, itself, will “read” as much an IDEA as a thing - is also shaped to BE what the function requires not what a pre-determined form-factor dictates.
Look at the flower as architecture. I submit to you we have no concept of ARCHITECTURE. With all our pride in technology, we are humbled by a single flower. This is the standard by which we should judge our works not the petty arguments that take place between one school of “architecture” and another. Here is the standard for structure, form, color, function and shear imagination and beauty. The EcoSphere model is but an outline, a form, an idea. The task ahead is to render it with the diversity and joy that nature employs. This, then, is the work and the criteria of success. EcoSphere was conceived to be a modern version of traditional nomadic architecture. The idea was “housing” that can go anywhere and be organic in its relationship to the planet. As such, a place to enjoy nature without imposing all the industrial society infrastructure costs on it. We have miles to go in this regard; EcoSphere can be an experiment and a step toward this goal. As a society, we have assumed that high economic and ecological infrastructure costs are an intrinsic consequence of a high standard of living. We have not realized that this is true only in the context of our present development and infrastructure design strategies. If we want different results we have to design based on intrinsically different criteria. EcoSphere will not solve all the problem of this domain; this will require a much greater scope. It can start a process and be a demonstration. It can be more like a flower and less like a mechanical thing.
EcoSpere background:
Architectural Projects # 63

1970s Concepts
Matt Taylor
knOwhere @Palo Alto
December 8, 2002
SolutionBox voice of this document:

posted December 8, 2002

revised December 8, 2002
• •

(note: this document is about 5% finished)

copyright© Matt Taylor 1967, 1975, 1979, 2002

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