Digging deeper into the process

Building Blocks is an open-source exploration of future spaces that is applicable globally and can be manufactured locally.

Devising such a concept isn’t without its challenges. A very flexible structure is required to ensure the product can work in the global North as well as in the South. Below we share some of the thinking that has gone into the design process.

Simplicity is key

Building Blocks has to suit several landscapes, which means it needs to be adaptable functionally, contractually and visually. Functionally, the structure must suit several cultures and needs. Contractually, it must be able to work on different terrain and be able to be both ventilated or isolated, depending on the climate. Visually, it should suit different surroundings without looking misplaced.

We decided that the only way to meet each of these requirements was to make a structure with a very simple form. Simplicity ensures that Building Blocks won’t look out of place, while also making it easier to adapt its function and make any contractual modifications.

Honesty

For Building Blocks, we prioritised “honest” architecture. That means we haven’t concealed anything. The building is what you see. We believe it is smarter if people have to build Building Blocks themselves. To this end we chose to expose the construction, so that everything from the bearing columns to the joists under the floor to the rafters supporting the ceiling is visible.

What makes it so flexible?

We believe the architecture of Building Blocks is special because its simple construction allows it to be scaled to suit different needs. A structure whose length is adjustable can be built for a family of two or for a camp of hundreds. The facade can also be made easily using different materials in order to suit the climate. Much of the CNC-built dwellings and spaces on the market today is very enclosed, and neither very flexible nor easy to adapt.

With Building Blocks, builders can adapt a new space to suit almost every situation or surroundings. Moreover, they can always transform it later, to meet new needs, by removing or adding new pieces — almost as easily as disassembling or re-assembling IKEA furniture.

The three main principles for a flexible and adaptable architecture

What are the problems?

It is impossible to design a building that is 100 percent flexible and universal. We tried to get close, but we have to be honest: we’ll never be able to make a structure that can suit everything from the strictures of Danish building regulations, with their requirements of vapour barriers and plenty of insulation, to warmer climates where the demand is for light buildings that are easy to ventilate.

That said, Building Blocks is an experiment, a pilot project exploring the future of open-source spaces, to see if we can challenge the way we build today. We still have plenty of unanswered questions, but we hope you’ll join our journey.