By now, we have all heard the mantra. In twenty years time, the world's cities will have grown from three to five billion people, forty percent of these urban dwellers will be living at or below the poverty line facing the constant threat of homelessness - scary statistics and even scarier implications.
ECOnnect, a Holland-based design firm, envisions a solution for these future housing shortages, one that could build a one-million-inhabitant city per week for the next twenty years for $10,000 per family. Peter Stoutjesdijk, architect at ECOnnect, created the concept after widespread devastation in Haiti caused by a massive earthquake left of hundreds of thousands of people homeless depending on tents for temporary relief.
The concept for the new home is analogous to a puzzle set. Stoutjesdik estimates that the digitally fabricated set of pieces interlock to assemble a full structure within five hours. Builders simply have to place the appropriate pieces next to each other as they would puzzle pieces. Each CNC-milled panel, made of reused-wood and waterproofed with nano-coating chemicals, would be jointed in three directions and thereby create a strong bond without the use of metal fittings, screws or glue.
ECOnnect, along with other peer initiatives such as Alastair Parvin's WikiHouse project, are calling for a disruptive paradigm shift in the field, challenging the notion of glamorous, big architecture, financed by even bigger corporations. "The fastest growing cities are not even skyscraper cities, but self-made cities," says Parvin. The favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the slums of Mumbai are clear examples of this. Thus, the role of the architect will gradually evolve from merely providing services to "the few with a lot" to "the many with a few."
In order to minimize the seemingly evident spread of urban poverty in the future, we need to embrace open-source design; an internet connection is all we need. Stoutjesdijk believes that "where the first industrial revolution democratized consumption, the next one is expected to design and democratize production through digital networks of shared knowledge and digital fabrication devices."
Learn more about a similar initiative:
TED Talk: WikiHouse co-founder Alastair Parvin Speaks at TED2013