Chicago Architecture Biennial

Four Full-Scale Dwellings

John Hill
6. October 2015
MOS Architects, "House No. 11 (Corridor House)" (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)

Four architects/teams – MOS Architects, SelgaCano + Helloeverything, Tatiano Bilbao, and Vo Trong Nghia – have created full-scale dwellings inside the Chicago Cultural Center as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

The first to be encountered is Casa A by Spain's SelgasCano (architects of this year's Serpentine Pavilion) and New York's Helloeverything, which is located on a second floor gallery. According to the designers, "The prototype uses industry standards in affordable fabrication to develop a structural system to which customized enclosure elements can be attached." Although far from a full dwelling, the single-space system as exhibited is a playful design that has potential, not only through different enclosure but also through the combination of Casa As in multiple.

SelgasCano + Helloeverything, "Casa A" (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)

The other three dwellings are found upstairs, on the Cultural Center's fourth floor, where Tatiano Bilbao's Sustainable Housing calls attention to itself through its bright blue walls. Her Sustainable Housing was generated to address the shortage of housing in her native Mexico, what amounts to a staggering 9 million homes. The inexpensive ($9,000) dwelling has a CMU core surrounded by lightweight surfaces in plywood and wood pallets. Even with a tiny budget and a home-like form, the dwelling has numerous surprises, including a generous 16-foot (5-meter) high dining/living space.

Tatiana Bilbao S.C., "Sustainable Housing" (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
Tatiana Bilbao S.C., "Sustainable Housing" (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)

At the other end of the same fourth-floor gallery as Tatiano Bilbao's contribtuion is MOS Architects' House No. 11. Also called the Corridor House, the New York architects call it a melding of "the strange figures of suburban corridors along with the openness of a Miesian courtyard house." Constructed out of plywood in modules no wider than a corridor (and therefore able to be shipped on trucks), the house looks like it could be rearranged easily depending upon site conditions and other factors. 

MOS Architects, "House No. 11 (Corridor House)" (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
MOS Architects, "House No. 11 (Corridor House)" (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)

The last house, also on the fourth floor, is Vo Trong Nghia's S House, which he designed as mass-production houses for low-income households in Vietnam's Mekong Delta area. According to the architect the house can be assembled in three hours, since the building elements are prefabricated and lightweight, and it uses a dry joint system that doesn't require any power tools or skilled labor. Like Tatiana Bilbao's house in Mexico, the S House is inexpensive, only $4,000, due to mass production and the ability of residents to erect it themselves. Vo Trong Nghia has realized two prototypes to date and is aiming to develop versions for expansion outside of Vietnam.

Vo Trong Nghia Architects, "S House" (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
Vo Trong Nghia Architects, "S House" (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)

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