Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pillow houses, Tetris furniture, and solar power


ow GDL Studio realizes it is December, but there is one tidbit from summer we’d like to share. One advantage to living in the Washington, DC, area is the National Solar Decathlon arrives every two years.

College teams design and build experimental homes that don’t draw power from the grid. As the competition’s name implies, solar power is big. One entry stood out for external and internal reasons.

From a distance, the Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology team’s entry resembled a giant pillow. The structure seemed more like astronaut housing for Mars as opposed to something that could blend in with a smattering of suburban ranch-style homes.

The students were probably tired of answering questions about using special vinyl fabric siding instead of metal or wood material. But they patiently explained that just as traditional houses need to be repainted or re-sided every once in a while, you would need to change your house’s fabric cover. Maybe it would be easier to patch a hole in your fabric wall versus needing to replace damaged metal siding?

GDL Studio is not ready to move into a fabric house, but we did see some funky flexible furniture showcased. Most competition homes are pretty small. Since floor space is at a premium, a student designed seating of various shapes that can be stacked into a Tetris-like formation. The lightweight pieces can be pulled out when needed and stowed against a wall.

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