Difference between revisions of "Spime Housing"

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(Urban Alchemy)
m (Integration with Metabolism)
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I also notice
I also notice
=Extension into Metabolism=
I think the space frame ‘plug-in’ urban structures were some of their best. We’ve already employed one such concept which also inspired Casagrande’s Paracity and others; the A-frame urban superstructure devised by Kiyonori Kikutake.
This very-much epitomizes the idea of the urban environment as a functionally generic volumetric landscape relating to the natural landscape (in this case, the form of Mt. Fuji) that is parasitically adapted for habitation by its inhabitants, and also illustrates the particular Japanese stance on real estate that land and housing are separate things with housing treated rather like furniture; replaceable, disposable, and with no relation to property value, allowing people to express themselves freely. This overcomes the monotony of repetitive structures. In this town, there is more visible diversity on the human scale than in any suburb of the US. This also demonstrates the concept of a linear city and some of the virtues of that.
The chronic problem with Metabolism was its designers’ tendency to overlook fatal flaws obvious to others. You don’t see it too clearly in the above photo, but this promising concept was sunk by the notion of running highways and trains through the interior of the city, which was logical in itself but in the era before electric vehicles and comprehensive solar/electric home heating would have meant gassing all the homes with pollution. I, of course, propose the same thing, but with the assumption that internal combustion engines, reliance on cars, and combustion-powered home heating have been long obsolesced by the time these new cities develop.
= See also =
= See also =

Latest revision as of 16:41, 7 November 2021

Please help to improve this page:

This page contains many quotes from discussions and should be rewritten to more self-explaining.

This article is about housing and functional spaces as a logistical solution , collected by Dante for the Antwerp Collective hosting research and development in 2014.

Nomad Spimed Settlements

as follow up on email conversations,

reply by Eric Hunting :

I'd like to explore this idea of a nomadic/festivalist approach a bit further and try visualizing such a project in terms of structures and activity. In another thread you note the idea of a Spimed Nomad Aggregator. Let me know how close to the mark I am, but I interpret that idea as being a kind of communal construct based on a nomadic approach to architecture that serves as a socialization, information, and production nexus for a nomadic community implementing some kind of semantic web platform as--among other uses--the basis of a spime characterizing its physical construction and systems. I would tend to visualize this as a kind of pop-up eco-village built as an emergent, modular, construct reconfiguring to different local situations and fluctuating population, building knowledge through the spime it creates about its own systems and structures. It's sort of like a traveling exposition of neo-nomadic/mobile-Maker/deployable eco-tech technology and culture. It serves not only as a physical nexus of activity--a festival--but a 'broadcaster', physically propagating itself through its open spime and the more-or-less independent production of its vernacular architecture and systems inspired/stimulated elsewhere by its presence and media output. It's almost a sort of Internet-viral urbanism.

The chief advantages--in theory--of a project based on this idea, compared to a more permanent settlement, are that it's potentially cheaper up-front since it needs no permanent real estate, it's more suited to distributed support/production, it can potentially repurpose found structures, and by moving around it can reach more people. But it also has one disadvantage in that it's a much tougher challenge to achieve any sort of subsistence capability. Mobile systems of production are limited to smaller scales. A lot of things that could really achieve some functional production in a more permanent setting may be limited to just demonstrations. But maybe that's OK in the context of exposition. You're reaching many more people than you could with something out in the countryside

There would seem to be a lot of current relevance for this concept. We are entering an age where impacts of Global Warming, the general failure of economics, and runaway austerity psychosis are putting billions of people out of their homes, on the move, and into jeopardy. And the market/state/militarist solutions to this have typically been institutional violence, denigration, and disenfranchisement. New Nomadism represents a kind of reaction to, protest of, and spotlight on, that. A functional nomadic _community_ offers the prospect of not only independent infrastructures of life-support with the possibility of dignified standards-of-living but, perhaps more importantly, social infrastructures for political and economic empowerment.

So far, though, explorations of new nomadic architecture have not produced functional contemporary vernaculars. Systems people can pick-up and go with relying on their own production or many common sources. The closest we've come to this is cargotecture--which, even with new flat-pack container modules, remains far too bulky to really be nomadic. Current design is mostly focused on the solitary individual or household rather than communities. Many variations on the theme of a Swiss Army Knife of shelter. It's in contexts of camping, novelty design-art, disaster relief, and very thoughtful and clever solutions for the homeless that never get out of a student designer's portfolio to actually reach them because there's no market to drive production and no social production as an alternative. This isn't to say there hasn't been a lot of really nice, useful and clever design in this area but if its just about one-off microshelters and solitary self-sufficiency it may be missing the point.

As beautiful as they are, the tipi, lavvu, and yurt are artifacts of specific cultures and environments. Situations different from the contemporary, predominately urban, situation even in the developing world. I think we need to look beyond the Swiss Army Knife of shelter to nomadic _habitats_. Urban constructs with collective infrastructures and--more importantly--collective social/political power.

So what does all that mean in terms of architecture? My first thought here was to imagine a very high-tech pop-up eco-village based on a sophisticated deployable superstructure. But then I realized there's another issue with this. Before we can answer this question, we need to have some clearer idea of the contemporary nomadic situation--it's context of location, environment, use, and mobility. We can seek a 'total' solution that physically suits a lot of situations--which was my first thought--but I came to realize that quickly gets very sophisticated in terms of fabrication and physically bulky, which challenges mobility. We start talking about tool-less quick-assembled multi-storey modular building systems mainstream industry has yet to get their act together with.

I think we need to first ask, where does this Maker-Nomad we are imagining live (or should that be phrased, where _can_ he live) and how does he get around? Tipis, lavvus, and yurts were designed by cultures that lived in the open--on plains/tundra--and moved cargo around primarily by sledges and wagons with the aid of animals. If the contemporary nomad is predominately living in an urban environment, he's getting around and using his surrounding environment very differently. Where and how does he 'make camp'?

Urban Alchemy

I've long had this fantasy about a Maker community that takes over an abandoned suburban corporate campus--a relic of a recently-collapsed economy--and repurposes its neglected low-rise office buildings into a high-tech eco-village. They tear out the asphalt to make farms, parks, and Living Machines, strip down and clean up the concrete and steel skeletons, give them new skins of architectural membranes, living walls, algaeculture frames, and solar walls supported with spaceframes, and then retrofit their interiors for tribal cohabitation. Turn them into new Hakka Houses. It might look something like this;


I even considered developing an outquisition-theme comic book from this, though science fiction is surprisingly rare in comics, and 'hard' SF virtually non-existant. I never seem to to find artists who can get beyond superheroes, medieval fantasy, and p. The theme of MacGyver-esque young people re-inventing the future the previous generation turned its back on and fixing the world with new green technology as the Industrial Age collapses is a bit beyond their ken...

Be that as it may, if we are visualizing the contemporary nomad as something like this--as a sophisticated urban nomad operating predominately in an urban environment, getting around mostly by street travel and the urban transit infrastructure, and repurposing its existing architecture by quick retrofit--then we have defined a context that may offer us the easiest and lowest cost project scenario; an indoor eco-village.

The indoor eco-village would be based on repurposing buildings much like those of the abandoned office park I described using portable 'pod furnitecture' and 'pod systems'. Deployable elements that you either easily take apart and pack-up and/or can move around on dollies, casters, and air-bearings. We're assuming that we're in an environment where you can move stuff around by hand cart and small light vehicle on relatively smooth streets and roads, have access to freight elevators to move through buildings, and where there is not a necessity for perfectly weatherproof structures because we're deploying mostly indoors--using existing structures or maybe deployable large area structures as 'skybreaks'. We're talking about a habitat sort of like this on a larger scale with more diversity of elements;


Setup in spaces like this;







Or under deployable skybreaks like this;






https://joyarchitronic.com/ (Awnings & Canopies)

So what is 'pod furnitecture'? I invented the term 'furnitecture' to describe indoor structures which bridge the line between furniture and architecture by virtue of a more volumetric use of space or by employing independent enclosure. Pod furnitecture refers more specifically to designs that are more enclosure-oriented, more self-contained in design, more 'appliance-like', and more inclined to be moved around as whole units.

Ken Isaacs' legendary Living Structures are furnitecture;




Things like Roger and Martyn Dean's Retreat Pod, Andrea Zittel's Wagon Stations, or the many forms of 'sleeping pods' derived from the Japanese Capsule Hotel unit are pod furnitecture.








These things relate to the concept of 'pod living' that was often explored by designers in the 1960s, based on the notion of reducing the functional elements of homes to a set of appliance-like objects that could be freely repositioned in the living space. (though their origins actually go back to ancient times and the independently enclosed beds common to many cultures) It failed to catch on because, in practice, conventional urban apartment space is very specialized and permanently compartmentalized, didn't accommodate open plan living until the 'lofting' trend came along, and couldn't well accommodate the use of 'appliances' the size of a small car… But in the large-span space its very convenient. I'm very fond of the concept myself because it very well suits the use of pavilion housing--housing based on the use of physically simple free-standing independent roof structures creating freely-reconfigured open-plan environments. This can greatly economize on the cost of housing by radically reducing interior finishing costs, which represent most of the costs in a home, while allowing for different low-toxic materials. I'm rather obsessed with the notion of housing that's 'PC-like'.

Moving In:

So how would we implement this indoor eco-village? What would it be like? Let's assume that we have at-hand a stripped unused urban structure as I've imagined. Pretty much a bare concrete skeleton of several floors in height. There may be intact window-walls or maybe the first thing our nomads need to do is setup a new 'skin' for the building.

Our imagined nomads have made a collection of deployable pods and other hardware that provide shelter and a mobile utilities infrastructure. They would have personal cabin pods--mostly for sleeping and storing personal goods--possibly some office pods for those who feel a need for a more quiet and isolated workspace the help concentration, and a number of systems and service pods. Telescoping T-slot jack-posts that compress between floor and ceiling would support some assembled pods and also serve for partitions, screens, light shelves, lamps, and many other items. QuaDror type supports ( http://www.quadror.com/ ) might also find many uses among pod and other deployable elements. All-in-one bathroom pods would use incinerating toilets. (the most convenient, compact, and low-impact means to handle that with portable hardware, but requiring venting and a lot of power or the use of canister fuel) Collapsable membrane water tanks reinforced by folding wire cages would be placed on plastic pallets to create mobile water storage where there is no adequate link to urban water supplies. These would also be used with some hydroponics systems for greywater recycling. There are modular kitchen pods. Various storage pods. Open/deployable or enclosed lounge pods with entertainment systems. There would be a power center pod that hosts batteries and controllers for deployable solar and wind systems and maybe a companion self-contained fuel cell or microturbine pod that runs on bio-ethenol. This is the same fuel that is now used for ventless low-heat indoor fireplaces and perhaps our nomads might even have such a symbolic 'hearth' in a mobile pod. There's a communications and data center pod that has server racks and provides a WiFi node while linking to existing telecom networks or using a WiFi/WiMax link on the roof. And, of course, there are various production workstation pods that fill out the tools and facilities of a community workshop/fab lab. With this pod concept we can make many of the larger tools of independent production more self-contained and mobile. Flat bed cutters and milling machines of various sorts on their own wheels. 3D printers on wheels up to 3m cubed.

Rooftop area would be a precious commodity with competition for use between solar/wind power, rainwater catchment, solar distillation, and gardening. So a more efficient way to go would be to employ vertical farming on lower building levels. Hanging Living Wall felt panels and vertical hydroponics systems like ZipGrow would be easy to install along the south-facing edges of the structure and still allow ambient light in.


Such systems are not only much easier to deploy than typical hydroponics, they would allow for the transport of hydroponics systems without removal of plants and the carrying of plants to market in their own means of attractive display.

In addition to quickly deployable solar panels--possibly using roll-up systems based on flexcell tarps ( http://buildaroo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/solar-tent-e1286834244609.jpg )--and deployable wind turbines ( https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/cU9AjwGVuXKSVCnYN2xOQ6XIzg5hbg-p_jvw622pw-7xfYlgTLgpOfRuApO8Dby-rOhqE57-7QTSe5hzoxElZuQeAQZ4y-Qpm-bwPeqTFv5D5SzNCUY ), the nomads may employ modular fiber optic heliostat arrays;





These would allow natural sunlight to be piped in on cable like electric power to illuminate the interior of the building and even plug-into individual pods. Fiber optic lighting systems would generally be safer, easier to install, and much more energy efficient (as much as 40% more efficient) because they eliminate discrete electric lighting fixtures and the electrical wiring to link them up. So the nomad's power pods might feature a hybrid fiber lighting center where an electric light pump is combined with heliostat input and then distributes light by cable to the rest of the complex. These would very safely combine with structures made of fabrics or be used outdoors or in wet areas.

Fiber lighting can be placed in any orientation so by combining this source of piped-in sunlight with a cylindrical pod structure to hang our vertical hydroponics on, it would be possible to make self-contained farming pods that could be placed anywhere indoors for intensive farming.


This form of lighting also allows for more sculptural uses of indoor hydroponics.


Solar thermal systems would be used for several different purposes using a hybrid heat exchange manifold. The conventional use would be for hot water heating. Then there would be use to drive solar air conditioning and water generation using adsorption coolers. And finally it would drive distillation to purifiy the water output from greywater Living Machines or rainwater catchment. This demands a pretty high-temperature system which may call for things like vacuum tube solar thermal collectors. These are not usually very portable so there would be a design challenge in their use. Perhaps solar concentrator heliostat heaters may be a more deployable and active system alternative.

Algaeculture, for food or fuels, can also be produced in much the same way as hydroponics using similarly portable supported or hanging vertical systems. Special processing and bio-reactor pods would be used to convert algae into either food or ethanol.



Not everything in the indoor village would be strictly utilitarian as the objective is to demonstrate a high potential standard of living and so some things that might seem frivolous by our usually militaristic notions of 'camping' would likely be included. Things like deployable art installations, museums, spas, multi-media entertainment pods akin to karaoke rooms, micro-planetariums, deployable theaters, facilities for pets, and so on.

Organization of the nomads' indoor village would depend on the topology of the structure they take over but a general order might see the rooftop employed chiefly for the different forms of energy collection, the floor below that used for water storage, intensive farming, and food storage, the floor below that for residence and common lounge/dining spaces, then a floor for the collective workshop/studio space, and at the bottom would be the 'garage' for the nomad's alternative forms of vehicles and more storage for shop supplies. The village may evolve through several stage of development, starting out very 'lean' with private space established primarily by the personal cabin pods in clusters around common lounge centers. Over time, however, individual living space may grow to clusters of multiple types of personal furnitecture enclosed in partitions and modular storage systems increasingly better insulated for sound.

Getting Around:

Getting around in lean and green fashion is a big deal and would be a constant obsession for the nomads. Most of the elements of the indoor village would be designed for relatively easy transport in the manner of push-carts, the urban landscape offering relatively easy mobility for things with relatively small wheels. Some towing devices--Segway-like walking tractors similar to two-wheel tugs used to move light planes in hangars or tow luggage carts in airports--might be devised to further aid this.



Powered hand carts are also likely and not unknown on the market.


These simple mechanisms could also be integrated into the design of some frequently moved pods.

An electric or hybrid version of the classic military mule would be ideal for an endless variety of uses and could host its own power charging with flex-cell canopies. With mecanum wheel drive, as used in some materials handling robots and fork lifts now, it could be the ultimate urban utility transport.



But it's likely that the nomads would experiment with a large assortment of electric, hybrid, and human powered vehicles both for use indoors and on the street and this could be one of the quite fun aspect of this project.













http://www.amishscooters.com/images/Amy%20on%20Amish-Scooter%20-%201-small.jpg http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-p_g6FKAqi6g/Tl5d6XWhLGI/AAAAAAAADNQ/2Dp9ShX-1DY/s1600/AmishGuysOnScooters.jpg

I'm rather fond of the simple tuk-tuk myself, which are now commonly electric.






Future or Fantasy?:

I think a demonstration of this model of nomadism is very feasible and could be explored on different scales, from a one-floor installation to a whole building and with a variety of variations in situation. But there's a critical question here. How realistic would this example be?

My fantasy example of a Maker community taking over an office park is premised on the notion of a regional economic collapse that leaves both original property owners and municipal governments too bankrupt to oppose what this community does with the space. (something that might only actually exist in the US in Detroit…) In practice, American municipal/city governments always resist any activity unconventional in nature. Anything new, different, and lacking the stamp of approval by members of the upper-class is assumed wrong by default and violently attacked. I often say that the NYPD has probably gleefully destroyed more art than the Taliban. Is our nomadic scenario only possible in a somewhat dystopian future? Would the modern urban nomad we imagine be allowed to exist anywhere? Is he forced to the edge of wilderness like everything else that's different?

Certainly, urban hackerspaces seem possible and so we could imagine this as an extension of that context. In a slumped real estate market, property owners would be more open to unconventional uses of their property at discount rates as long as it doesn't represent anything permanent in nature--which rationalizes the nomadic nature of this. One is always being evicted once the landlord finds more 'legitimate' tenants and forced to move on to another space. Certainly, the phenomenon of the arts community as agent of gentrification is well established. For a century, of not two, we've seen that artists, always seeking-out low-cost studio space in the depressed areas of cities, revitalize local real estate markets with their creation of a local 'arts scene'. Subsequently, they find themselves evicted from the communities they largely created as upper-class residents move in causing rents to become untenable. Could a similar phenomenon become a hallmark of Maker community activity, instigating entrepreneurial industry rather than an art scene? Perhaps it's most realistic to suggest that our nomads would be living in a variety of situations, sometimes having to deal with rural or wilderness environments. (which would certainly be the case when engaging in developing world outreach or disaster aid) In my comic book fantasy the Maker nomads use adaptive reuse to turn all sorts of obsolete structures into bases as they travel the world; shopping malls, forgotten missile silos, water and gas tanks, subway stations, limestone mines, cooling towers of abandoned nuclear reactors, amusement parks, abandoned ships--all kinds of architectural detritus of the Industrial Age given unusual new life.

But if our imagined nomads are compelled to work on the urban periphery or in wilderness then they are faced with a new set of challenges and the requirement to create mobile superstructures that assume the roles of the urban superstructures they would have repurposed.

Not-So-Urban Nomad

Interestingly, while the work of Ken Isaacs with his Living Structures strongly influenced the emergence of an Urban Nomad movement in the late 1960s and early '70s, it was a very brief movement largely because it's image of the future failed to materialize. It was premised on the notion of imminent Post-Industrial collapse long anticipated across the '60s and the vision of a more sophisticated youth culture adopting a more-or-less seasonally nomadic way of life repurposing the detritus of the Industrial Age as the civilization re-wired itself. The economic collapse was postponed and, frankly, that sophisticated urban youth culture never emerged because, through runaway gentrification, the cities became untenable in their mid-century role as home of young adults entering the workforce, the market clued-into the tactic of co-opting youth culture by stealing it, re-packaging it, and selling it back to them, while a conspiracy of academia and the banking system began indenturing the young with life-long debt right out of school. So what we really ended up with, at least in the US, was a suburban youth culture where kids stayed at home with parents well into adulthood or formed tribes of friends to cohabitate in rented inner-suburban houses or low-rise apartment complexes while seeking commuter jobs like their parents.

So in his later work Isaacs started move away from the city too. He went out to the country and started experimenting with semi-nomadic microhousing deployed on the woods. I say 'semi-nomadic' because it was still based on the idea of a culture that traveled with the seasons but now they were leaving structures behind with the expectation that they would be intact when they returned. He developed a concept called 'mobilism' where, instead of investing in one heavily overbuilt house, people would create these small very minimalist dwellings in multiple places and travel between them with the seasons, rather like some herding folk or trappers who create support buildings in strategic places along their routine migration. The houses didn't need to be heavily insulated or equipped--they would each only be used in mild climate and the more valuable 'gear' would be moved between them. So it was sort of like urban nomadism without the city architecture to provide the superstructure. You were making that yourself and leaving it behind in a number of places.

You could say this was a sort of Modernist version of a Faerie Court lifestyle. In Celtic folklore the Faerie Court is always on the move. They're nature spirits, traveling across the landscape, doing their stuff to drive the cycles of the seasons. So, traveling in grand processions by night, they go from barrow mound to glen to grotto to ruins creating temporary, and normally invisible, palaces of the places they stop at. So these various permanent features of the landscape become the markers of stations of the cycle of their travels. It parallels, in ways, the nature of seasonal royal processions and the movement of noble courts among different seasonal palaces.

But there was one part of this idea that Isaacs never quite managed to make work. Originally, he described mobilism as employing minimalist structures as rugged as an anvil so they could survive through their unused seasons. He never quite managed to create that because, frankly, it meant heavy construction he couldn't do. For this idea to really work, your structures, though minimalist, need to be extremely resilient to weather and vandalism. (especially vandalism if they're on the suburban periphery. Young people there have a lot of frustration to vent and a chronic lack of spaces to call their own…) His experimental constructs of plywood and pipe-fitting systems weren't likely to survive a typical winter.

Taking a much heavier structural approach, our imagined nomads might explore this strategy by creating a series of free-standing single-storey pavilion structures in strategic countryside locations that assume the same function of the office building structures they would use in an urban environment. Imagine a series of simple bare Brutalist pavilions made of reinforced concrete (tridipanel for easiest construction), stacked stone, fired brick, gabions (building stone baskets), or even boulders and possibly employing various forms of earth-berming.











Since these would be purpose-built, the structures might include a grid of formed-in plug-in sockets like those used for climbing form systems or flush-mounted T-slot rails that provide built-in attachment points for quick-mount elements. These might also be used to close-up the structures with steel shutters when not in use. They might also include some utilities--wells and septic tanks in particular--and inserts for gas, wood, or pellet stoves. Internet connections may be more difficult to establish with such locations but long-distance bridge links may be a serviceable alternative to the poor value service of contemporary satellite ISPs. One unusual possible feature unique to this culture might be built-in 'dead drops'. These are embedded digital storage devices like flash drives that would be used to store some spime data and residents information. Sort of a digital guest book. These days they can even be wireless, since we not only have WiFi flash drives by WiFi power recovery to charge them. ( http://deaddrops.com/ )

These pavilions would take various forms; simple rectangles and polygons, circles, rings, or domes sized to accommodate many people in one multi-function structure or a cluster/compound of smaller structures of more specialized use and small groups.

During mild seasons, the pavilions would be inhabited just as the urban buildings were, using the same pod furnitecture and retrofit systems. When not in use, they would be stripped down and closed up, the community moving to other compounds with milder seasonal climate. If sufficiently secure, they might also serve as materials and data systems caches. This is actually an approach to architecture I have intended to use myself for my own low-toxic home--albeit with a more permanent enclosure and utilities installation. There is an endless variety of simple pavilion structures--many prefab--that can be easily turned into palatial homes with a little ingenuity. Relying on open-plan living and furnitecture eliminates the conventional interior finishing that is not only a major source of indoor chemical pollution but also the largest portion of housing construction cost.

The chief drawback of this approach is that, at present, the nomad community would ultimately need to own the land for these locations in order to build such structures. The community may be mobile, but this property and heavy structures put on it are not. But if that issue could be overcome, the approach would technically work.

Pop-Up Microcity

A more completely mobile approach, however, would require our nomads' architecture to move beyond pod-furnitecture to include the deployment of portable, demountable, superstructures to host them, which brings us back to the notion of a pop-up eco-village.

As noted earlier, skybreak shelters such as deployable tension roofs and tent-domes can work as hosts for the indoor village, functioning much the same as the proposed heavy pavilion shelters only lacking a ceiling and so relying mostly on free-standing elements. They would need level deck systems, but that's a standard feature for many existing event domes and pavilions. Thanks to modern materials, such structures can be as durable as any permanent buildings, be completely transparent, can integrate their own photovoltaic panels using flex-cells, and recently even EL paints have appeared allowing us to paint-on lighting. ( http://www.lumilor.com/ ) The critical limitation of these structures is that they are not modular (even though domes may have a modular framing system, their tent skins are not) and the larger their necessary enclosure area the larger their basic structural elements become, making them progressively more difficult to deploy. But as with the heavy pavilions, replicating multiple structures of a relatively large but still manageable size is a workable solution.

But can we do better? These skybreaks aren't quite as versatile or durable as the repurposed urban buildings we imagined our nomads inhabiting at first. They aren't volumetric and our village would be inclined to sprawl and fracture--to become more suburban. Even relatively modest sized tent covers could take many people to deploy or remove. Can we realize a more modular, urban, superstructure and still have it relatively easily demountable and transportable?

This is where the modular building systems I noted before come in; modular post & beam systems, space frame systems, and pavilion systems. They offer us two basic approaches to superstructure; a space-filling grid superstructure where our nomads' pod furnitecture evolves into a kind of plug-in architecture and a terraced superstructure that creates much the same kind of structure as the urban buildings. Both these things require--more-or-less--newly engineered modular building systems. There are no equivalents off-the-shelf, though some hardware that may be repurposed. But if kept relatively low in expected performance--let's say, limited to structures of about four storeys--they may be feasible near-term. Both of these also represent systems I've been trying to realize with the Utilihab project. So let me explain what these approaches are like.

A space-filling grid is a superstructure that uses some kind of space frame structure to fill space in a more-or-less regular volumetric grid. This might be based on a post & beam system or a triangulated space frame that creates some other kind of standard volumetric unit that can host a sizeable unit pod structure. (like nesting polyhedra networks, fractal 'sponges', and the like) This grid then supports habitable structures as retrofit attachments to this grid--systems of cabin pods, cabin 'bay' modules, and deck panels. Utilities systems may run internal to the space frame elements or be likewise retrofit. The space frame is generally exposed, requiring pod elements to be independently weatherproofed, but can also be enclosed by an exterior skin/panel system or retrofit roofing systems.

A simple example of this approach is illustrated by Ken Isaac's designs using pipe-fitting systems for his early 'mobilist' experiments.




Here he used a pipe-fitting system as an exposed post & beam space frame resting on small cement pads. Stressed skin plywood cabin units and deck pallet modules simply fit in the open space and attach to the frame. At the modest scale of these designs--unit ~1.5m cubed--this supposedly worked well though the cabin modules were not large enough to stand up in unless designed for vertical orientation. To overcome this limitation, whole or large parts of the space frame could be enclosed by an external plywood skin, leaving more 'headroom' in the open framing.


Others have more recently attempted the same structural approach at a larger scale. This example looks to be using around a 2.5m grid, which looks much more convenient but was probably not as sturdy.


Isaacs imagined this grid being incrementally expanded to fairly large complexes flowing over the terrain and, by the mobilism model, this frame hardware was intended to be left behind in seasonal migration. He considered his plywood constructions largely disposable. It's hard to imagine such very light structures as surviving well on their own. And pipe-fitting systems, even though a little bit improved today, rely on the friction of locking screws to hold everything together and so aren't the safest way to build things. Anything more than two levels is probably pushing it. But this is a good illustration. There are many things that can work similarly at this modest scale; modular industrial shelving, stacking post pallets ( http://www.palletower.com/images/product_images/up603p1.jpg ), plastic and aluminum pallets modified to attach support posts (like a giant version of plastic shelving http://www.pensito.eu/custom-made-plastic/custom-plastic-pallets/images/custom/01_CMP/cmp-custom-plastic-pallet-01.jpg ), on and on. I find the market of industrial materials handing products endlessly fascinating, even if much of it is rather specialized.

Space Grid City

But a practical system for our nomads--something large enough to be truly livable and functional for mobile production activity--would probably be much larger in scale and employ a much more substantial rigidly connected structural system even at the cost of higher mass. Let's say a space frame grid in something approximating 2.5-3m cubed. That would give us a very useful basic 'pod' size.


Utilihab is intended to produce just these kinds of structures using extruded aluminum T-slot framing. It's intended to use a bay size of up to 3m height in box units up to 6m square and with a load capacity supporting many storeys. The catch with it has been a lack of off-the-shelf T-slot profiles up to the ideal size of 150-200mm square. Very recently, however, a Chinese company may have just begun production of a profile of this size, though using a propriety connector.


There's a possibility that this could be very competitive in cost to US and European T-slot products because it's intended for building, not applications with an 'executive premium' attached. So we can now potentially build box frame grid complexes of quite large size using components that can be handled by very few people with convenient T-slot attachment all over their frame surfaces for convenient retrofit. This would be an excellent way to create a pop-up eco-village. Everything we can imagine could be easily integrated to this kind of grid structure. Weatherproof cabins could be made to generous size using walled tent schemes or panelized systems could be used for enclosure. Modular roofing systems could be employed. No question that this would be a more expensive, elaborate, and labor-intensive construction than the much simpler indoor village, but would all be easily demountable and use very few tools. The drawback is that, collectively, it's still a lot of hardware to transport from place to place. This would be much more involved than moving portable pods on wheels from place to place. We're probably talking shipping containers and conventional trucks to move this around. And, while it would be potentially very weather-resilient, it would still not be something one would want to leave on its own in the wilderness when not in use.

Pavilion City

The pavilion system approach is a more high-tech approach and at present no off-the-shelf structural system approximates it except, perhaps, some space frame systems. The basic idea is to use modular elements to create a deck and column system for terraced construction, producing a superstructure much like the conventional urban building but with much lighter materials and thus limited to fewer storeys. And because this is purpose-designed, the surface of the structure would be intended to support quick plug-in attachment of all the functional elements we would want to retrofit to it.

Conventional triangulated space frame systems can accomplish this by using a space-filling geometry to fill-out the forms of flat decks and systems of columns supporting them. There are, however, some caveats with this approach, as I noted before. Keeping these space frames to a modest scale of complexity means using relatively large module sizes. This makes for rather bulky structures, as illustrated by the floor deck of this old instant house concept with a module size of something around 2m;


One could reduce the deck thickness by using shorter members, but this has the drawback of creating many different parts sizes. You want to keep things to few different strut lengths when there are so many parts. This is why we tend to see these used only in very large span structures, and not often using the space frame for support columns. But that's what we would want in this case. We would want to have generous free span areas to roll our indoor village systems into. We're making things on the scale of a low-rise office building. So, as bulky as this is, with a simple space frame system with a module size half to fourth the intend storey height and which we could also use for domes, it could potentially work. We can then use a drop-in floor system based on deck panels that mount to 'hand' supports plugging into the top of the space frame nodes--like like a data center raised floor system. Roofing would work similarly.

There is, however, another way to go with space frames if we can work with a relatively large maximum strut length (4m) and a somewhat odd floor geometry. Previously I noted the Min-A-Max and Universal Node System space frame geometries developed by architect Peter Pierce. These have the unique capability of integrating, with the same set of parts, a deck truss system supported largely by triangulated perimeter structure and additional vertical internal struts. You can imagine this as being like a geodesic dome which has the ability to integrate a series of truss decks within and supported by it. To do this structures must assume a specific overall form that is compatible with this deck truss geometry. The deck system for Min-A-Max is called the 'tetrahex truss' and forms a series of hexagonal units with an equilateral triangle grid along its plane surfaces. To be stable this must integrate into a stable, triangulated, polyhedral shape and the largest of these is a truncated octahedron.


Imagine you divided this shape into three horizontal sections. Here's a 3D puzzle toy that illustrated these sections, as well as giving you an idea of what this shape would be like made of triangulated struts;



Thus divided you get two kinds of volumes; a large equatorial volume and a smaller polar volume. And you also get two kinds plane surfaces; a hexagon and a truncated triangle. These planes match the shapes we can make with the tetrahex truss.

Truncated octahedrons are space-filling.


This is why they've been proposed as the basis of space stations and cluster microhouses--like N55's take on Ken Isaacs' LEM like microhouse;


But take any nested combination of truncated dodecahedrons and you can divide them by these same horizontal sections, creating a series of parallel planes with a tiling pattern of hexagons and truncated triangles. By triangulating their perimeter you make a self-stable system of decks. A pavilion system.

We can elaborate this geometry further. The truncated tetrahedron and cuboctahedron derive from the same geometry and, in combination with the truncated octahedron form a space-filling system that likewise divides into the same set of horizontal planes. This is where the more complicated shapes of UNS structures comes from. And, again, N55 have speculated on microhousing uses of this.


But for simplicity sake, I think the truncated octahedron system alone suits our ends.

In Min-A-Max, the truncated octahedron can be stabilized by either 'planar' triangulation--triangles along the plane of the faces--or 'domical' triangulation approximating a sphere. Consequently, the two kinds of tetrahex truss planes can be formed into shallow domes. So we can make two standard tension fabric roof shell units to cover any stacked tessellated combination. (assuming we can figure out how to waterproof the edges they meet at) These would also serve as functional solitary dome units.

We don't need to worry about covering the whole surface of the structure with panels for enclosure. We just need to fit vertical panels surrounding a hexagonal prism volume in the center of each section unit. Theres a hexagonal prism volume running through each section of the truncated octahedron, defining the basic functional unit space.

Clearly, the geometry of these structures is complex and one key drawback of that is floor and ceiling systems that use equilateral triangle panels. Many people idealize triangles and hexagons, but from a fabrication standpoint they're a bit cumbersome and wasteful when most stock panel materials are produced in rectangular sheets. Be that as it may, our nomad's use of pod furnitecture makes the larger topology of a structure largely irrelevant. They are going to use this space in an open-plan fashion and so as long as the space is generous enough to let them setup their furnitecture freely, it works.

But is there yet a simpler way to go about this? Maybe, but it may require even more advanced fabrication than these space frame systems would.

As noted before, Utilihab is intended to evolve into a more advanced pavilion building system. It's current incarnation as a post & beam frame & panel system is a compromise, relying on aluminum T-slot framing because the industry for its production is already established worldwide. The common problem with modular building systems of the past has always been convincing Capital of the existence of a market for something new--and so anything truly new is virtually impossible. This is the chief reason why no modular architectural building system developed in the 20th century ever succeeded commercially. But as I noted, I've always been obsessed with the idea of PC-like housing and so my dream has been to develop a 'plug & play' architecture based on 'smart' components with integrated sensors and utilities that reduced the labor and complexity of construction to as low as possible--short of having a house assemble itself.

So imagine an open frame cube of high performance alloy, one meter cubed. It might be triangulated and in fabrication it might be made of multiple parts. Some versions might even be collapsable. Some might comprise sets of modules to make construction quicker. But it's engineered to function as a monolithic unit. Its edges are flat and flush, with the exception that along the faces it has an attachment system. Maybe a grid of sockets or a channel like T-slot framing. There may also be a formed-in volume of foam providing thermal, sound, and fire insulation, such as Airkrete. Each unit has integral mechanical connectors near the corners that are engaged with a hand-operated mechanism or some simple tool. They also feature integral utilities channels and connectors or, at least, mounts for supporting them and a single-chip sensor node with temperature, moisture, stress, and load sensors. These units are mass-produced. They are the primary building element for this system.

To build a home with these you first install a foundation, possibly using concrete piers, and attach your first cubes to them and level and align them with a laser level tool. Then you start attaching more, place on against the other and engaging their integral connectors to lock them together. You continue until you have a complete floor deck in the outline of the first floor level. This functions as a two-way planar truss. It is the 'backplane' of the house. Some special modules may be designed with special features or serve to 'anti-alias' the profile of the floor deck so you can use rounded corners, make circular deck shapes, or have flowing contour-terraces.

As you connect the modules you are also connecting their sensors into a live sensor web that is linked to a home WiFi network. So, using a modeling application, you can see on a PDA or tablet a model of the house as you assemble it. It might show the planned form of the house so as to guide your through assembly, but it's also showing the structural integrity of the building as its assembled, showing you what is safe and unsafe to add and where you might need temporary supports as you work.

Once you complete you're first deck plane you now begin to plug-in supports for the upper deck. These would include temporary jack posts and permanent columns in various styles and designs (trust me, tikis will make a come-back) or they may include modular furniture (usually shelving and cabinet systems) or even appliances reinforced to be load-bearing elements. They are all designed to suit the 1m module grid so you slide these into place where you want them and then engage the same kind of connecting mechanism and lock them into deck. Some may have integral wheels or low-friction slides to assist their movement. These may have the same utilities and sensor web interfaces as the deck modules so as soon as they are connected, they're 'on-line' and will appear in the house modeling app. With enough of these in place, you can now start snapping together deck blocks for the next level. Repeat as needed until you get to the roof deck atop which you plug-in a modular flat roofing panel system. You now can plug in non-load-bearing window-wall and pre-finished partition panels into the floor grid, creating a full enclosure. Finally, you plug in outdoor surface and deck tiles/panels, maybe outdoor hydroponic plant bed panels (imagine pre-seeded polymide felt panels that grow moss instead of grass) and indoor floor and ceiling tiles/panels or put down a plug-in plank system and your building is complete. From here the building app now functions as a home control system and continuous monitor of the structure's integrity, sensing failures and tracking environmental performance. This could form the basis of a live spime web for the building and all its elements. Everything in the structure remains demountable. You can take it all apart as easily as it was put together, re-arrange and ad this in-situ, and the structural modeling app will always tell you what's safe to put where. It will even let you model changes before you do them so you could play with the architecture like building houses in The Sims and download models of items to try out before you buy them or have them made.

Using low-profile deck modules, this system would readily retrofit into other structures, giving them a new backplane for the system's many modular parts and accessories.

Can such a building system be produced today, as an open building system? Maybe. But it would be a very sophisticated project. The deck and column system would need to be exceptionally strong and capable of at least several storeys height. But it would probably be the greatest advance to housing technology since the invention of the fired brick. Buildings of most any relatively modest size would become one-person tasks. A simple cottage home could be built by one person in a matter of hours. Just like the PC, a whole new global industry of parts would develop, competing horizontally while integrating vertically just like the PC's industrial ecology.

With such a system at-hand our imagined nomads could build--using lighter versions of some of these components--very sophisticated yet completely portable structures of most any size anywhere. Their pod furnitecture would evolve into plug-in load-bering elements for this system. Simply by arranging them on their own foundation jacks and plugging in deck modules around them they would create a sheltered habitat. But I fear this may be much too sophisticated a building technology to pursue for our immediate plans. Still, it's fun to imagine.

So there is my attempt at visualizing what this project might be like. Maybe some of these ideas are of use.

4D Printing - Logic Matter

Skyler Tibbits' concepts are really intriguing. At first glance my feeling was that this was something with huge potential, but all very distant. But the more I saw the more it seemed like there were some possibilities for demonstrating experimental architectural-scale structure in the here and now if we rely on relatively simple designs. If I'm interpreting this correctly, the general building system he proposes as Logic Matter is like a chain of blocks--self-linking or carried on a cable--that are picked up from a packing/transport configuration and then dropped into place on a cable using the energy from gravity to compel them to fall, nest, and link in the desired 3D orientation. 3D structures are thus 'knit' together like a rigid amigurumi figure. The cartoon in his larger paper on this shows a crane being used to load and drop blocks. Presumably, the crane is roughly following the 'knitting path' of the linking blocks to keep them falling vertically while at the top is a towing mechanism. Programming of the blocks seems to be done in their packed configuration--implying an integral electronics--or this might be achieved by a mechanism on the crane. Either the blocks rely on their nesting topology for rigid interconnection or some integral bonding or locking mechanism is also used.

So what we basically have is a space-filling structural system based on a more-or-less solid module. A kind of 'brick' structure that doesn't need human hands to lay the bricks.

How well can this space filling geometry approximate the useful shapes we want for a structure? This relates to my comment you noted earlier. This space filling geometry would be the 'microstructure' I eluded to. The building form is the 'macrostructure'. The larger the modules of the microstructure--or shall we say the lower the system's 'resolution'--the more the macrostructure is limited to paralleling the topology of the microstructure. Conversely, the smaller the microstructure modules the more it can approximate any desired macrostructure topology but with the compromise of increasing the number of parts. Previously, I had noted this in the context of labor. It's a hassle to manually assemble structures that need a lot of parts. But since we're automating that, the issue is now the general size of module we need to achieve a useful structural performance relative to the production costs and methods of the modules. That then determines the limit in effective 'resolution' of the structure and the range of building forms we can use. Tibbits implies a relatively small module size/high resolution (maybe soccer ball sized sized and smaller?), which means many tens of thousands--maybe hundreds of thousands--of units in something the size of a conventional house. Their production would need to be highly automated, cheap, and reliable.

What materials can we use? The larger the module size the more materials options we have but also the more complex and labor-based fabrication becomes. The smaller the module the more limited our choice of practical materials and the more things favor automated processes like injection molding. Imagine the cost of a house if, by equivalent volume, you were making it from the same materials we use in the typical 3D printer. (not to mention the time that currently takes) It could be astronomical. This is why Tibbits was rotomolding his experimental blocks. But most people would not be interested in a house made out of plastic. (even if, frankly, that's pretty much what the modern suburban house increasingly is. Plastic and high-tech papier mache...) They might tolerate structural foams, but are they strong enough? How about cast/injection molded wood composite? Milled alloys would also be problematic, even if we're relying on milling machines. It would really demand a process like injection molding, which largely limits us to aluminum. (injection molded glass-alloys is probably too exotic a process to work with near-term) High performance ceramic is likely a very good choice, especially if we used a two-stage process creating a foamed core to lighten the block and make them more insulating, but its still potentially expensive. CEB is probably too brittle, too irregular without a highly refined source material, and would need a large, heavy, block size to accommodate the topological features of these Logic Matter shapes. Concrete would probably have similar issues, though geopolymer could be much better because of its higher density and more ceramic-like properties. Would bio-stabilized sandstone do better? Any other possible materials?

How strong and rigid must the interface between assembled modules be, especially if we are using this to make floor decks? This could be a critical problem for putting this concept into practice. The same problem has also hampers modular/cellular robotics. Either the blocks rely on some aspect of their nested topology to achieve a rigid connection or they must have some other, automatic, means of sticking strongly together. At a relatively small unit block size as implied, automatic mechanical connections become difficult. There are some new possibilities, like magnetically driven screws that have recently come to market in the furniture industry;


But it's still difficult to deliver sufficient energy for such mechanisms to many small elements, especially if deeply buried in the structure. Building-in a motor to drive such mechanisms would be impractical unless the modules were very large and, consequently, expensive. Tibbits' prototype Logic Matter blocks are completely passive objects that rely on orientation to program the basic assembly modules. (physical NAND gates) They have no bonding/linking mechanism and rely on human labor. Useful as a way to study the information/computing theory of the concept, but you can't make anything useful with this. So we'd have to reduce this to practice with a functional block of new design.

How do we finish such structures and integrate utilities? Obviously, these would not be waterproof structures by themselves, though they might be weather-resistant. They would need separate roofing and cladding materials which, ideally, sync-up with the module topology to allow them to be modularized. Can we integrate things like radiant floor heating? Is there interstitial space to route wiring and cables?

If this is possible near-term, I think we're probably relying on a rather larger scale of block and pretty simple architectural forms. Dome-like forms or pavilion structures where everything else is largely independent of the main free-standing structure leaving relatively large free-span spaces for open-plan use. This may generally be limited to single floor structures at first, but such minimalist forms could well exploit the topology of the building system aesthetically because there may be no broad load-bearing walls to cover-up, just floor and ceiling. I personally consider open-plan pavilion-based housing to be the most practical form of free-standing housing anyway, in part because there are so many ways you can create a self-supporting roof structure and many kinds of hardware that can be repurposed for that. There's an old Polynesian saying that a good roof and a good floor make a good house. Notice the lack of 'walls' in that…

So this does seem possible, but it's so new we would definitely be in uncharted territory working with it. It could certainly garner a lot of attention, though, if we could come up with a nominally functional system.

More at-hand possibilities may lay in systems employing robotics with larger structural elements. Tibbits notes the problem with the commonly seen modular/cellular robots as a building system. They generally have a very high overhead in integral mechanical systems and electronics relative to the volume of structure they can make, which means a large manufacturing overhead and an astronomically high building cost per square meter. But there are ways this can be ameliorated, leveraging active hardware over much larger areas of structure.

I've long been interested in construction automation, both for use in space and for domestic uses. Unable to employ much sweat equity in building myself, I've long been interested in the idea of building the machines that might build for me. One concept that I've wanted to explore was self-assembling space frame systems based on a scheme devised by designer Scott Howe;

http://www.plugin-creations.com/us/ash/research/projects/proj33/project.htm http://www.plugin-creations.com/us/ash/research/projects/proj33/summary.pdf http://www.plugin-creations.com/us/ash/design/projects/proj35/project.htm

Howe has spent a long time exploring construction automation and self-constructing structures, but usually with machines and components of very large scale. In this Trigon system, developed with NASA, he got down to a much more modest scale that seems accessible to possible hobbyist experimentation while still producing structures of significant size. In this system a panel-type space frame consists of simple modular robots with powered hinge and linking mechanisms on their edges allowing them to climb over each other by flipping themselves and alternately attaching and detaching to assemble themselves into rigid structures. Connected units would form a distributed power and data bus. This is a potentially easy machine to make as a combination of two flat plates (wood, aluminum, composite) with active components sandwiched between them. It could be sized such that a relatively modest number of units would make up structures of significant scale. Many kinds of functional elements could be integrated into the center space of the frame panels; quick-attachment mounts, lighting, fans, speakers, displays, solar panels, sensors, WiFi nodes, and so on.

Howe also proposed a Cubolding system based on similar but cube-shaped units;


Here each cube is outfit with automatic corner connectors and internal actuators that push cube units forward or turn them over corners. Sets or trains of cubes traverse the surface of structures in inch-worm fashion. This strategy could be employed with either mechanisms integral to every cube or using a robot that can move inside and between the hollow cubes. This makes for structures with more rigid connections but the articulation needed is more elaborate.

These kinds of systems would be very entertaining to watch in demonstration and would make for a very valuable venue of robotics research. They could make just the setup of an exhibition a very interesting event. But, by themselves, they probably can't serve as resilient housing and probably aren't going to be strong enough to support the loads of multi-floor buildings. They would need additional materials that, right now, would end up being put on by hand. It wouldn't be terribly difficult. If you're producing simple self-standing enclosure forms like domes, pre-made outer tent skins and plug-in foam and cloth interior panels. Unless you're dealing with a structure that has to be dismantled, moved, and redeployed very frequently it's hard to justify the cost of so much active hardware in every component, even if this system leverages it more than other cellular robots. You need to be getting a fairly large amount of shelter area relative to the unit hardware investment. Still, even if they have a long way to go, they would be fun to explore and would have a lot of visual impact. And if we are talking about a festival sort of exhibition, maybe we are taking things apart and moving them frequently enough to justify this approach.

But if we're talking about nomadic/temporary structures that are easy to fabricate and set examples for other people to follow and use, self-assembling and robotic systems may be overkill. We can save human labor by much simpler means. Technically, there is no reason building comfortable, attractive, and resilient housing isn't already as easy as assembling office partitions other than the fear of the impact on design from standardization and because it suits the interests of banks for housing to be as expensive as possible. (no banker is going to get rich on housing people can build for themselves in hours or days--which is why it was necessary for the mobile home to become 'damned' architecture) It would seem to make more sense to leverage technology and design on high performance structures with the elimination of skill in assembly to leverage modest human labor--the same logic of PC parts. If we're talking about something on the scale of a small village, we're not likely building things so big and complex that it really compels automation--as fun as that certainly may be to explore as experiment.

I think we could readily meet the needs of a pop-up village project with some combination of three types of open building systems;

Aa post and beam framing system using structural members light enough for one person to carry but capable of supporting structures of up to three stories and spans of around 6 meters. (which is what Utilihab is designed as)

A pavilion system based on a modular planar/deck truss plug-in 'backplane' serving as both floor and roof deck. (what Utilihab is expected to evolve into by second or third generation)

And a high-performance ball-socket-node space frame system supporting both relatively short and long strut lengths for truss and enclosure uses. (alternately, a plate dome system could serve, since primary uses would be for enclosures/skybreaks)

All these would ideally feature tool-less or few-tool assembly and employ pre-finished plug-in/snap-on/bolt-on panel systems. These things would not only meet our project needs, they could revolutionize housing in general--no other high-tech required.

With such easy assembly of basic structure, a nomadic architecture would differ from more permanent architecture largely by choice of materials. Yurts and walled tents can define our basic approach, though these systems afford us much larger and more diverse shapes than the traditional forms. Current architectural fabrics and membranes (ETFE, PTFE) offer vastly greater performance, resilience, and duty life than typical tent materials and can function well even for permanent structures. (I'd avoid anything with PVC, though…) We now have flex-cell PVs that can be integrated with these materials, allowing tension roofs to function as quickly deployable solar power systems. ( http://www.ifaipublications.com/iaa/repository/8/9534/large_2914_369_1280.jpg ) Felts used in living wall systems can also integrate with these materials to make temporary living structures. And we now even have paint-on EL lighting. ( http://www.lumilor.com/ ) Lighter alternatives to alloys for structure could also be used in this mobile context, particularly FRP, wood composites, and the like.

The nomadic context also offers potential for exploring another, more specialized, structural technology; soft architecture. This is something I often discuss in the context of 'furnitecture' and as the basis of deployable dwellings in large microgravity space habitat environments. (think somewhat larger versions of Japanese capsule hotel units made out of fabric and foam that plug into open space frame core structures of a large space habitat--space frames which can also double as host for hydroponics, hence the notion of 'urban tree' habitats) Basically, it's soft-sculpture technique applied to the creation of modest semi-rigid shelters using insertable light framing, modular structural foam, or inflatable elements. An easy visualization is to imagine those hut-shaped pet beds made of foam and fabric increased to the size of human-scale furniture or, larger still, a traditional yurt. Such structures offer much more resilient, highly sound and thermal insulated, and easier to setup shelter than traditional tents with many possibilities for novel integral features, integral furniture, and the like. The compromise is that they are potentially bulkier than tents depending on the nature of insert elements. New compressible memory foams offer interesting possibilities for this.

Another technology more specific to the nomadic context is the use of pneumatic frame structures offering some advantages over conventional space frames. These use high-pressure inflatable elements as alternatives to the usual struts of a space frame and can be fashioned to suit 'gridshell' systems or, with a larger parts count, more modular conventional space frame geometries. ( http://www.planex-gmbh.de/air-supported-membrane.html ) Unlike more typical inflatable shelters, these systems do not need continuous power for pressurization and with some modern elastomerics pressurized struts can support such high internal pressures they can approximate the strength of wood or aluminum. Pressurized corrugated membranes have long been speculated as an eventual alternative to glass windows. (since materials like ETFE are more transparent than glass) The concept has been applied at small scale to support systems for conventional tents ( http://heimplanet.com/ ) and some off-the-shelf versions of this technology have appeared offering very multi-functional pavilion forms. ( http://www.bec.es/imagenes/estructuras-hinchables/estructura-neumatica-hinchable-pileri/estructura-neumatica-hinchable-pileri-F03.jpg )

Technologies like these seem to offer more near-term possibilities, even if they might not seem as cutting edge as the idea of programmable matter. And, as long as we rely on largely modular design, there are any number of ways we can 'tag' large collective structures for spime tracking and the creation of semantic webs around them. That's basically what a 'spime' is, isn't it? Semantic webs for things and their designs that link to those physical things by the software used to create them (output) and by various means of digital tagging, use and activity logging, or integral networked information gathering. (feedback)

Eric Hunting [email protected]

Business Models

I'm fine with your sharing the discussion. Please feel free to share any of my material with anyone you think might be interested. We need to network to build up interest and support for a project.

I think you have the right idea about approaching business models. We should think about that as a means of making the development self-perpetuating rather than merely generating profit, which keeping designs open and on-line will go a long way toward doing. There's much potential here for entrepreneurship on the small scale. I see these nomadic communities as much as incubators of small business as social groups and working in a cooperative manner as you suggest provides the kind of pooling of resources that makes small business activity accessible. Some things are still expensive. A laser cutter is still a several thousand dollars and up proposition. A flatbed CNC that can work with real building materials is still a $10,000-$20,000 proposition. These are going to be shared resources. So the approach you suggest makes perfect sense. I see this as much like the early days of the 'dot-com' boom when 99% of Capital didn't even know what the internet was and so the young frontier web developers were pooling personal resources as small tribes, buying/leasing net connections and buildings for their communal data centers that they sometimes also lived in, and incubating that whole industry in a cooperative manner.

The one challenge we face may be that the people we are usually trying to reach are somewhat averse to 'business as usual', so-to-speak, and to discussions of money. We will need to demonstrate that cooperative nature of our approach very clearly. Scratch-building key tools--things like the flatbed CNC--as group projects making a group resource, as opposed to just pooling money and buying them, might be an important part of that. Of course, we also want such tools to be much more mobile than they usually are, which creates another incentive for developing 'custom' forms of them.

Eric Hunting [email protected]

Spimed Space for Spimed Housing

in a Venture Cooperative Commons Approach ?

Eric's Reply :

This looks like a good synergy of ideas. It establishes a positive role for the nomadic community as far as property owners are concerned while, working as a cooperative rather than a for-profit corporation, it overcomes the many abuses associated with anti-squatting companies as that video you noted detailed. The use of furnitecture eases the hardship and stress of necessary mobility in temporary renting while facilitating the habitation of buildings that normally wouldn't be suited to residence. The mobile farming capability and use of solar/wind power also puts a green spin on things that would appeal to many. Why not turn an office building into a clean temporary farm until the commercial space market improves? I think some companies and municipalities would really go for that idea. There would, of course, be some potential conflict with the militant squatting movement that sees all property owners as adversaries and class oppressors, but they're not interested in the sort of buildings the nomads would use anyway. One could develop a pretty good business model on this.

This anti-squat temporary rental is an interesting phenomenon that doesn't exist anywhere in the US--and would probably be prone to even more heinous abuse here if it were. (we can't even get a handle on pay-day loan usery rackets here) Here squatters rights were abandoned and attempts by organized squatters to reclaim and restore slums have been met by mass police violence. In the '80s a highly organized squatters movement in NYC engaged in a large scale restoration of buildings that had fallen into ownership by the city as their slum-lord owners abandoned them. Shortly after being elected, the right-wing mayor Rudy Giuliani sent in military vehicles to evict the squatters, willing to destroy the buildings and kill people rather than allow illegal occupancy. He later made a bid for the presidency… There may simply not be enough reasonableness in American culture to allow for things like this unless a community used the mobilism approach I described to buy or build their own collection of shared properties. However, there does exist an industry in 'house sitting' that markets its services to the very wealthy--people who have multiple houses they only spend certain seasons living in and have house sitters guard for them when they are away.

There's also an interesting phenomenon of perpetual camping here. In some national parkland areas people are allowed to camp for as much as several months at a time each year and so travel from park to park. This has become popular with some retirees who invest in huge recreational vehicles and trailer/caravans rather than conventional homes. In a few cases these folks buy rural property to build a large well-furnished garage that they winter-over in, living in their RV inside the garage for a season then spending the rest of the year on the road. In the '90s there developed an 'Airstreaming' craze based on the resurgent popularity of the old Airstream brand of steel skinned trailers. A regular cycle of Airstream encampments were organized around the country so the, typically retired, community of Airstream owners could move from one to another all year long. This once led me to suggest the fanciful notion that, with the advent of self-driving vehicles, might come an attempt by some people to live a truly mobile existence in self-driving RVs that run in cyclic routes on the nation's highways. One might have a conventional job and be dropped-off and picked up from work by one's continually traveling self-driving home. Various on-the-road services might be offered by the self-driving vehicles synching up through wireless networking and temporarily docking together on the road. Not exactly practical, of course, without some miraculous cheap source of energy but an amusing idea. Some years later, a European proposal for repurposing the rail system to support large RV-like personal rapid transit cabs picked up on the idea of on-the-move services with cars that would dock along parallel tracks to deliver food and other goods ordered on-line.

Sorry for the slow pace of replies. Been dealing with dental work--which is usually as primitive as it is over-priced here--and local wildfires whose smoke has me feeling poorly lately. Went into town for my weekly shopping and it looked like the planet Mars with all the smoke hanging over Santa Fe. Big change for a place where you can sometimes almost read by the starlight.

Dante's suggestion that Eric replied to :

Life on the go / Lifestyle / Sharing Economy / Tribes

using :

Legal Frameworks ( Cooperatives, Mitshauser Syndikat , ... )



Dutch anti-squatting business thrives amid economic crisis

Guido, a penniless student, could hardly believe his luck when offered lodging in the heart of Amsterdam at a fraction of the going rate -- a boon thanks to the credit crunch as property owners desperately fend off squatters.

London : http://www.tntmagazine.com/lifestyle-career/property/the-legal-squatters-find-alternative-cheap-rental-options-in-london

While avoiding or taking into account the risks of it's excesses in a corporate form :



fluid versions of Sakura House

Japan / Tokyo


Fungibility and Customization

I imagine that all become spimes.

The space in itself becomes a spime, as the space can change location. And the components that are used within the spimed space, can themselves be spimed objects assembled and re-assembled in modular ways, for various functions.

Or in other words, all becomes "virtualized", with potentials for engagements and resources being requested or made available , transformed, created based on combinations of potentially fungible units ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fungibility )

And by enabling so, as I remember vaguely from system sciences that a system can not take control on a system more complex then itself,

it enables a simple complexity approach giving participants stigmergic forms of resilience.

Tracking of Spimed Components, Fungibility and Tokenization for Online Market Place

Some software tools ( such as this one , in development https://github.com/automenta/netentionjs2 )

can also be used to keep track of components, as to re-use components more easily based on contextualized needs and available resources.

This enabling specific standard components to be fungible / interchangeable , hence not needing to carry them over space, or store them over time, as they can be tokenized and swapped on a online market place -

"Light" vs "Heavy" Nomadism ?

the following I would characterize as "heavy(er)" nomadism ( use of a lot of energy ) :


Light(er)weight nomadism using information instead of energy, optimising the use of contextual knowledge and resources.

For example, Instead of moving stuff, using locally available materials.

One approach can be, providing a spread out movement, a market for fungible components that can be assembled in different ways, without needing to move the materials / components across space.

Collaborative Collective Convergence Space

Dante personally wishes to move on further on this project, with anyone interested.

A first step may be to prototype basic components.

I personally have not yet existing CAD design skills, but can learn fast.

I see a priority to enable a convergence of people in the form of a collective living space. I want to work on a legal framework to cover the living costs of a collaborative / collective project space. ( actually a friend may already be setting one up )


On Apr 15, 2013, at 9:57 AM, Dante-Gabryell Monson wrote:

and more on Skylar Tibbits , and towards 1 to 4 dimensional ( self ) assembly, and 4d printing ;)

and a more recent presentation :






On Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 5:46 PM, Dante-Gabryell Monson <[email protected]> wrote: and more on logic matter - self guided assembly

Logic matter: digital logic as heuristics for physical self-guided ... dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/64566 by SJE Tibbits - 2010 - Cited by 2 - Related articles Title: Logic matter : digital logic as heuristics for physical self-guided-assembly. Author: Tibbits, Skylar J. E. Other Contributors: Massachusetts Institute of ... Logic Matter - SJET www.sjet.us/MIT_LOGICMATTER.html Logic Matter: Digital Logic as heuristics for physical self-guided-assembly. Given the increasing complexity of the physical structures surrounding our everyday ...

Further conversations with Eric

Reply to Light , Fungible, Durable , Modular Low Energy Nomadic Living Structures

Yes. I think that's a good way to describe it. I think the RV and trailer home represents a far point on a sort of four cornered or two axis spectrum of mobility. The one corner, where the RV is, is the whole housing nomadism corner. You're dragging around a whole house. Rich in stuff. High in energy use. Let's say this is 'south' corner of our spectrum.

Then the west end is the corner of totally made-on-demand nomadism. Rich in stuff, but everything is made from what you find locally or bought off a local marketplace and discarded when you move somewhere else. We haven't discussed this aspect of nomadism much because it looks like how suburban people already typically live. People go someplace and they buy a house there off the 'housing market' or have it built to suit and sell it when they move someplace else. In fact, they technically try to exchange their life-long debt on one property for another, hopefully without losing any 'value'. They just don't seem to move with any great frequency so we don't call that nomadism. Yet, compelled mostly by the vicissitudes of corporate jobs, people actually move more frequently today than ever since we adopted agrarianism. This mortgage financing system was designed--along with the 'tradition' of the nuclear family--to facilitate a mobile workforce. It's the cost and 'hassle' in this process and its external motivation by employers, rather than self-motivation, that limits this. But let's say you had a robust programmable matter technology and 3D printing capability. The means to build, with almost no labor, a whole house and its furnishing in a couple of hours and recycle it back into stock material in about that same amount of time. Suddenly, this looks very nomadic, though it's probably the highest energy mode of nomadism even if you have high recyclability. This points out the fact that what defines nomadism may be less about the technology of shelter and more about the nature of a self-determined way of life.

Our eastern end is Mobilism. The mode of nomadism that is rich in stuff but little of it is mobile or personally owned. Rather, it's left in place and reused by whoever is passing through at any time. You could call this 'hotel nomadism'. This is a generally low energy lifestyle, though the non-mobile elements are likely high-energy in creation in order to give them resilience when uninhabited. Ken Isaacs defined Mobilism in terms of dividing the stuff of a personal habitat into heavy, modest personal value, resilient stuff that you would leave in place to fate and the elements and lighter more easily moved, more personally valuable items that you would take with you one place to another. In his Post-Industrial futurist book Bolo, author P.M. defined a similar lifestyle. His vision of the future was a world of village/town/city communities and if you were going to live in one of them you had to integrate into its society. To facilitate this every bolo community would set aside space for transitional living supported by a certain standard courtesy hospitality, be it for people testing the waters, so to speak, of the community to see if they wanted to join it or just travelers. So most people would come to reduce their truly personal possessions to what would fit in a foot locker or steamer trunk. Everything else they needed would be owned by the community or would be easily replaceable and they could get it free wherever they traveled or chose to live.

Now, this might seem odd to us today, but this is how many of society's elites lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. Today we see hotels in the context of 'tourism' but 100 years ago or so (and maybe as late as the late 1950s) the hotel was the home of elites; celebrities, movie stars and entertainers, writers and artists, entrepreneurs, the younger members of the upper-class. They lived in hotels because, back then, cities were still the hubs of western culture, commerce, and nightlife but losing their attraction as places for the wealthy to own residential property and their careers demanded 'shallow roots', so-to-speak. A film or theater project might be a proposition of months or years and there was no jet aircraft to toss you around the globe in hours. (before the jet, getting from California to someplace in Europe took, roughly, a month. Hollywood was invented to subvert the patents of film tech developers like Edison on the East coast--who wouldn't sue because the law still required them to personally represent themselves at patent trials and it was such a hassle for them to repeatedly travel to California) And so their personal possessions were things that were easily transportable in elaborate sets of luggage designed to suit transit by rail or ship--mostly clothes, jewelry, small pictures, books, and the tools of their 'trade' if they had them; stage props, costumes, cameras, art equipment, typewriters, etc. They might rely on warehouses to store goods they couldn't take with them, like cars. Everything else they could need was readily provided by the hotels at typically luxurious levels of quality.

Today we have youth hostels providing a similar kind of hotel nomadism infrastructure--albeit relatively crude. But its easy to imagine how such stationary infrastructures might be expanded to support modes of Mobilism with progressively higher standards of living and longer periods of stay without the sort of very high cost of the hotel lifestyle. There is a certain connection between the idea of pod furnitecture and the elaborate luggage of the globe-trotting upper-class of the Gilded Age.

The north corner of our spectrum is a very special one. It's the possession-less shelter-less extreme. The Sadhu life. Nomadism defined by the elimination of as much personal possessions as possible and with as little physical infrastructure as possible. This is only theoretical now. Human beings are simply too fragile. But we can imagine some transhumanist person of the future who is carrying a collection of very sophisticated nanotechnology within his own body that wirelessly links him to the global information/communication infrastructure, allows him to make anything he needs from the carbon in the atmosphere and found materials around him, and minimizes his need for shelter by eliminating or compensating for the hardship of exposure to the elements. All his necessary possessions exist in his own body and in the 'cloud'. His 'work' might consist of sitting in one place like a meditating yogi while, in his head, he's operating in a vast virtual habitat. Even clothing is optional for his survival or comfort. He can live comfortably in the most harsh environments--even living in the sea or the polar and desert regions. It may be centuries yet before people like this exist, but we're defining a pole of our four-sided spectrum and this is one of the theoretical extremes. Many current nomads aspire toward this kind of lifestyle, even if they can, in practice, only approach it with great compromise in standard of living. But as the lowest impact mode of living, they accept that compromise for the sake of a 'greater good' for the environment--at least until age and children catch up with them.

So, looking at this two axis/four corner spectrum any mode of nomadism can be defined as a point or region within the space of these four poles. And there's an implied diagonal axis here; heavy, high-energy, rich in stuff toward the south-west to light, low-energy, minimalist toward the north-east. It's probably a bit hard to visualize without drawing this out on paper.

I think the idea of fungibility of stuff is important. And that might define a sixth diagonal axis in our imagined spectrum, from south-east to north-west--from fungibility to disposability. In the Mobilist extreme one owns very little, with the bulk of the stuff of one's habitat infrastructure--stationary--and exchanged from one person to another through direct reuse. Then on the MOD (made on demand) living end of that axis one own very little but makes a lot of stuff as needed and disposes of it--exchanging it by recycling more than reuse.

One of the concepts I had for Utilihab based housing was the idea of an 'aftermarket' components exchange network that could support low cost housing and easier mobility. People today renovate homes at a ridiculous rate. Bathrooms and kitchens especially. It's an almost annual event in the US now. The upper-middle-class especially treat homes like haute couture. They feel compelled to continuously upgrade to the latest in interior design fashion. The problem is, houses and furnishings aren't designed for this. They're designed with this assumption of perfection and permanence. And so it all turns into landfill waste, mostly un-recyclable. Home maintenance and renovation is one of the biggest sources of landfill waste. With modular building systems like Utilihab that are designed to make renovation easy by making everything demountable the side-effect is that instead of producing all this landfill waste, you're producing a stream of used reusable or refurbish-able parts that enable people to obtain high quality housing at much reduced cost.

But there's another aspect to this if you network this parts market. Even with a totally demountable building system like Utilihab, it's a hassle to take a whole house with you from one place to another and there's a big energy overhead in transporting that. And selling it locally is also a hassle and a risk because of market value fluctuations. One of the things that really drags on the progressive development of housing--compels people to be hyper-conservative about housing--is this need for ready fungibility of housing to facilitate moving. If you can't sell you can't move, so it's always got to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to be easy to sell. So everyone is always playing it 'safe', letting bankers dictate what our homes are like, and getting uptight about how their neighbors impact their property values; what they build, who they are, what 'class' they are, what their skin color is, and on and on.

But what if instead of selling a house you exchanged its parts? You have to leave one place so you ship off all the easily mobile stuff you're taking with you and you call the local parts exchange to come and help dismantle the house. You trade your house's parts in for credit on the exchange network. Then you go to your new place and call the local parts exchange there and say; "I have X amount of parts exchange credit so I want this list of parts." and, assuming they have them all, they take those parts out of their local warehouse and bring them to your location and help assemble them. So you're house, as a collection of standard parts rather than a whole, is always easily fungible--a currency in and of itself--no bankers and real estate agents necessary. All that matters is that there is a local parts exchange near where you're going and that they maintain a volume of stock parts to meet general demand. Now, the economics of this have to be maintained carefully. Parts depreciate in value individually, there's an overhead in storage, refurbishing of parts, and moving them around to maintain supply. It wouldn't always be a straightforward exchange. But it could work.

Core Modules ?


Excerpted from Eric :

" There's several basic elements of the neo-nomadic village I think we need to focus some design work on; the personal micro-cabin, the community lounge, the cooking/cafe pod, the hydroponic system, the factory/fabrication pod, and the energy/power pod. There are many more possible elements, of course, but these are the core elements. "

Excerpt from Dante's reply :

Which elements from n55 could be built on ? http://www.n55.dk/MANUALS/Manuals.html

I remember their nomadic futures http://nomadicfutures.n55.dk/

I also notice http://www.n55.dk/MANUALS/SNAIL_SHELL_SYSTEM/SSS.html

Extension into Metabolism


I think the space frame ‘plug-in’ urban structures were some of their best. We’ve already employed one such concept which also inspired Casagrande’s Paracity and others; the A-frame urban superstructure devised by Kiyonori Kikutake.

This very-much epitomizes the idea of the urban environment as a functionally generic volumetric landscape relating to the natural landscape (in this case, the form of Mt. Fuji) that is parasitically adapted for habitation by its inhabitants, and also illustrates the particular Japanese stance on real estate that land and housing are separate things with housing treated rather like furniture; replaceable, disposable, and with no relation to property value, allowing people to express themselves freely. This overcomes the monotony of repetitive structures. In this town, there is more visible diversity on the human scale than in any suburb of the US. This also demonstrates the concept of a linear city and some of the virtues of that.

The chronic problem with Metabolism was its designers’ tendency to overlook fatal flaws obvious to others. You don’t see it too clearly in the above photo, but this promising concept was sunk by the notion of running highways and trains through the interior of the city, which was logical in itself but in the era before electric vehicles and comprehensive solar/electric home heating would have meant gassing all the homes with pollution. I, of course, propose the same thing, but with the assumption that internal combustion engines, reliance on cars, and combustion-powered home heating have been long obsolesced by the time these new cities develop.

See also