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Paperhouses

5 Initiatives That Show the Rise of Open Source Architecture

13:30 - 24 September, 2016
5 Initiatives That Show the Rise of Open Source Architecture

In architecture, perhaps the most remarkable change heralded by the 20th was the radical rethinking of housing provision which it brought, driven by a worldwide population explosion and the devastation of two world wars. Of course, Modernism’s reappraisal of the design and construction of housing was one part of this trajectory, but still Modernism was underpinned by a traditional process, needing clients, designers and contractors. Arguably more radical were a small number of fringe developments, such as mail-order houses in the US and Walter Segal’s DIY home designs in the UK. These initiatives sought to turn the traditional construction process on its head, empowering people to construct their own homes by providing materials and designs as cheaply as possible.

In the 21st century, the spirit of these fringe movements is alive and well, but the parameters have changed somewhat: with a rise in individualism, and new technologies sparking the “maker movement,” the focus has shifted away from providing people with the materials to construct a fixed design, and towards improving access to intellectual property, allowing more people to take advantage of cheap and effective designs. The past decade has seen a number of initiatives aimed at spreading open source architectural design--read on to find out about five of them.

Why Aravena's Open Source Project is a Huge Step Toward Better, Cheaper Housing for Everyone

09:50 - 29 April, 2016
Why Aravena's Open Source Project is a Huge Step Toward Better, Cheaper Housing for Everyone

This article by Paperhouses founder Joana Pacheco was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Aravena's Small Step, Open Source's Big Leap."

When Alejandro Aravena was awarded the Pritzker Prize earlier this month, he made a remarkable and significant announcement: he had published the plans of four of his social housing projects on his website, for anyone and everyone to study and use.

Through the work of his firm Elemental, Aravena is known for his interest in incremental, participatory housing design: a common-sense way of working within financial restraints and a cornerstone of Elemental’s studio work. The motto—focus first on what is most difficult to achieve, what cannot be done individually, and what will guarantee the common good in the future—resulted in a “half a house.” First introduced over a decade ago, the model consists of an expandable 40 square-meter (431 square-feet) container with basic infrastructure (partitions, structural and firewalls, bathroom, kitchen, stairs, a roof) built-in and added to over time. It is not only an achievement from a conceptual and project management standpoint, but also an aesthetically open and diverse project. From this one idea stemmed 100 variations.

Xten Architecture's Austin Kelly on Context, Flexibility and Open Source Design

00:00 - 22 September, 2014
Openhouse, a design by Xten Architecture in California
Openhouse, a design by Xten Architecture in California

Xten architecture is a California and Switzerland based practice lead by couple Monika Häfelfinger and Austin Kelly. Recently joining the open source architecture platform Paperhouses with the Box House, Austin Kelly spoke with Paperhouses founder Joana Pacheco about architecture, sustainability, construction and working internationally.

Read on after the break for the interview.

Why The Blueprint of the 21st Century Should Be Open Source

00:00 - 13 March, 2014
Why The Blueprint of the 21st Century Should Be Open Source, Frank Gehyr's Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Rendered/Modeled in Rhino by Neguin. Image Courtesy of rhino3d.com
Frank Gehyr's Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Rendered/Modeled in Rhino by Neguin. Image Courtesy of rhino3d.com

It used to be that when an architect needed a physical facsimile of his/her project, a draftsman would individually draw the schematics by hand. Blueprints were revolutionary in that they streamlined reproduction through technology, yet they were based on a publishing model that was repetitive  — not iterative. Computer Aided Design software, or CAD, streamlined the process even further; however, unlike blueprints, CAD was not based on publishing models, but rather on “technological science.” As such it evolved in a very different way. CAD technology that was initially developed in the 1960s as a proprietary tool for heavy industries—aerospace, automotive and super-computer processing centers— became consumer-oriented in the 1980s when it met the UNIX open platform. The key in its rapid development, dissemination and democratization was exactly this: open technology. 

Today, we have 3D modeling software that can pack an exponential cache of information, render designs visible with incredible fidelity, and make those designs easier to adapt. BIM technology (building information modeling) has entered the workplace, too, improving coordination and productivity of all trades involved in project construction, effectively revolutionizing the manufacturing sector. This is technology that, like CAD, has undeniably been pushed forward via the open development and integration of components. 

And yet, architects continue to depend on closed distribution models in the face of so much technology that makes design shareable and easy to manipulate. 3D modeling software has evolved and created a competitive market with ever more accessible, cross-border, cross-disciplinary design software. While the blueprint, a “published” medium, came with requisite copyright issues that appealed to the architect-as-artist, today, as a “technological” layer, blueprints cannot afford to stay locked in.

In Defense of Open Source Design

00:00 - 22 January, 2014
In Defense of Open Source Design, Tatiana Bilbao's open source design for Paperhouses. Image Courtesy of Paperhouses
Tatiana Bilbao's open source design for Paperhouses. Image Courtesy of Paperhouses

The unspoken truth about housing today? Most of it is ugly - more accurately described as "developed" than "designed."

What's the difference? A housing development is bottom line-oriented; a housing design is human-centered. A housing development is made for the masses; housing design is typically envisioned for an individual client. But, at the end of the day, every house was at one point designed. In other words, development and design are merely made to oppose by developers and designers. They can be one and the same.

So how can we negotiate the difference between "development" and "design" - and effectively create better housing for the many without loss of individualism? Allow me to suggest an unlikely solution: making architecture open source.