WikiHouse: Open-source housing

Downloadable from an online platform, the WikiHouse is a building arsenal that challenges architecture's industrial and intellectual dogmas, as demonstrated with a live assembly of the experimental mini-module during the Hacked event at Milan's La Rinascente.

This article was originally published in Domus 959 / June 2012

Architecture 00:/ don't play by East London's rules anymore. They moved out of their former industrial-era townhouse in Hackney and now reside in a vast super-studio in Westminster, a stone's throw from 10 Downing Street. They're plotting something that could propel them into political animals.

From this base, the band of entrepreneurial, civicminded architects, geographers, sociologists and technologists are working on building projects, open-source platforms, community start-ups and political, cultural strategies. With one eye on the future, they work on downloadable houses from desks designed using open-source software and "printed" just a few miles from here.

In the centre of their office is a WikiHouse , an entirely open-source architectural construction set. The plans and models for a house are available online, as well as variants and evolutions of it, on the basis of which anyone can add, subtract, design, fabricate and assemble their own WikiHouse.

The version in their office is a section of a prototype, and the real project is online and evolving every day. "It's freely accessible, affordable, sustainable housing which can respond to users' needs and be built by the users themselves," says Nick Ierodiaconou, one of the designers of the project. "Absolutely everything online is published under an open licence, from the models to the code for the plug-in, which means that anyone can exploit the models and use local materials and production methods to make their own," Ierodiaconou explains.
The micro test house built  
during Milan Design Week,  
in April 2012, was the first  
experiment with a zero-bolts  
system. These connections  
made the overall structure considerably more robust, as  
well as significantly reducing  
assembly time
The micro test house built during Milan Design Week, in April 2012, was the first experiment with a zero-bolts system. These connections made the overall structure considerably more robust, as well as significantly reducing assembly time
The mantra behind the WikiHouse has been John Maynard Keynes's epithet that "it's easier to ship recipes than cakes and biscuits", and the methodology is inspired by the open-source software movement. Programmes like Linux were at the forefront of shared design and utilised the network for what it was: an opportunity for improvement through collaboration. Code left over by one person could be utilised and transformed by another. It's certainly easier to share, evolve and build ideas online than it is with bricks and mortar.



In the same way, at the crux of WikiHouse is the open-source plug-in for the free architectural programme SketchUp . The code was created with the Espians, a network of problem-solving programmers, and it transforms an easily designed SketchUp model into CNC-ready cutting plates which can be sent directly to a fabricator.

"WikiHouse is a poem of the near future, rapidly driving towards reality," says 00:/ partner Indy Johar. "It is a platform which is prototyping the reality of socialising design while simultaneously democratising production, and in the process provoking a serious challenge to the industrial and intellectual dogmas of a professional elite."
WikiHouse uses only  
one basic material: 18-mm  
structural plywood, in  
international standard sheets  
sizes of 2,400 x 1,200 mm. Hooks and tabs for  
cladding panels protrude  
outside the fin profile
WikiHouse uses only one basic material: 18-mm structural plywood, in international standard sheets sizes of 2,400 x 1,200 mm. Hooks and tabs for cladding panels protrude outside the fin profile
Johar's point is echoed by almost everyone who has come into contact with the project. It has rebounded across the world, creating its own movement. The team members are talking to emergency-relief housing teams, universities as well as curious developers.

There have been five WikiHouse prototypes built so far, but none of them are ready to be rolled out into production. The net needs to be spread a bit further. As designer Alastair Parvin says, "Our hope is to develop the construction system and help designers and makers set up WikiHouse labs around the country and improve and make more advanced versions. It's an open-source project dependent on people who believe that open-source housing is a problem worth solving." Beatrice Galilee
The plans and models for a house are available online, as well as variants and evolutions of it, on the basis of which anyone can add, subtract, design, fabricate and assemble their own WikiHouse
The WikiHouse  
construction system is based  
on plywood fins, spaced  
evenly apart according to  
the selected gauge of the  
construction grid. Those fins  
can vary in size and shape.  
Once connected together  
and clad they form a robust  
timber frame structure
The WikiHouse construction system is based on plywood fins, spaced evenly apart according to the selected gauge of the construction grid. Those fins can vary in size and shape. Once connected together and clad they form a robust timber frame structure

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