An introduction to Building Blocks

We are Mia Behrens and Johanne Holm-Jensen, two young architects striving to create architecture that is honest, authentic and everlasting.

Mia Behrens
Feb 22, 2018 · 4 min read

Through our “playful research” project at SPACE10, we explored how to build an open source architectural structure that could fit the needs of future living. We did so by examining the tension between old-fashioned craftsmanship and new production technologies.

What do we want?

CRAFTMANSHIP VS. TECHNOLOGY
The architecture of the past is very different to the architecture of today. Architecture was previously very context-specific and individually engineered. It still is to some degree — but modern production methods and construction demands are forcing architects to turn to standardized and prefabricated solutions. We’re constantly building bigger, faster and cheaper in order to optimize processes and minimize costs, and have fewer opportunities for working meticulously with every detail of a building.

We find this interesting, however, and it’s something we want to challenge by exploring if we can create an architectural project where modern production technologies — in particular, a CNC milling machine — can be combined with fine craftsmanship.

CHALLENGES
When we began this project we asked ourselves a number of questions. How could we design a sustainable and low-impact project? How could we integrate technology in a smart way? How could we provide an affordable solution? How could we design architecture that is so simple that everybody can build it? And how could we design a standardized system that at the same times ensures flexibility so that we can provide solutions to different needs?

GLOBAL, LOCAL
We sought to make an open source concept that would have relevance globally but be manufactured locally — a concept that demands standardization but also flexibility, to enable it to suit different contexts and purposes.

To build sustainable, we have to make a product that is attractive for a wide number of people. we do not adapt for a better way of living by making expensive solutions for the few. the architecture should be flexible, simple to build and affordable without compromising quality.

Why open source?

Open source is changing the way architecture is produced and moved, cutting out time-consuming manufacturing and cutting out expensive shipping. By sharing globally and manufacturing locally you get a more sustainable solution. Moreover, the design can be tweaked according to individual specifications and materials. It is also easy to make additions. Finally, it can be designed as a set that can be completely self-assembled.

Inspirational items for grid and facade

Inspiration

We have been inspired by a great variety of very different projects and concepts. Opendesk is a great example of an open source concept, and has inspired us with their strong ”global vs. local” strategy. Elemental’s social housing project in Quinta Monroy, Chile, has given us an understanding of the benefits of involving residents in the process of building their homes. We have also been inspired by Mette Lange’s Mini House concept because of the way that a standardized module creates a flexible building structure for low-cost housing.

In terms of the architecture, we have been inspired by Peter Zumpthor’s museum project for the Allmannajuvet zinc mines in Norway, because of how he has placed the buildings inherently in context; Peter Friberg’s summerhouse in Ljunghusen, Sweden, because of its simple and honest construction; and Rintala Eggertsson Architects hut-to-hut project in Karnataka, India, which uses local materials and is a great example of off-grid housing.

Where are we heading?

The aim of the project was to create an architectural structure that is so flexible that it could be used for several purposes. Our basis for the project was a construction unit that could be used all over the world and be adapted to its context through the use of local materials. Our ambition is to distribute the project on a platform that enables people to customise their new space and subsequently download a manual and build it themselves.

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