Living large in a smaller house: the MIT “1K House” project

Anyone who’s wandered through an Ikea store — and if you’ve gone in, you’ve wandered through, because they are purposefully designed like mazes  — has seen mock interiors decked out with Ikea stuff. Usually smaller than 600 square feet, they are models of efficiency, yet no two are the same.

Ikea efficiency apartment

In its “1K House” project, MIT is encouraging architecture students to design homes that can be constructed for $1,000 or less. No one has reached that price point yet. But one prototype, designed by MIT grad Ying chee Chui, has been built in Mianyang, in Sichuan Province, China for about $6,000. Although saving space is not an explicit goal of the project, it is inherent in such a limited budget. Pinwheel House, for example, is only 800 square feet. Built around a central courtyard, it features hollow brick walls with steel bars for reinforcement, wooden box beams, and is intended to withstand a magnitude 8.0 earthquake.

[The] Pinwheel House . . . has a modular layout, with rectangular room units surrounding a central courtyard space. “The module can be duplicated and rotated, and then it becomes a house,” Chui says. “The construction is easy enough, because if you know how to build a single module, you can build the whole house.” . . .

The four identical modules can be easily seen in the second, “open roof,” photo below. The one above it shows that good ventilation and natural light are not sacrificed.

Interior of Pinwheel House

Pinwheel House from above

With 1K House now behind it, MIT is moving on to other things. This fall, its architecture students have been given the new mission of designing a house that would cost $10,000 to build. Chang explains:

“The idea of the 1K house is very much about how could we, as architects in research institutions like MIT, work on world poverty,” Chang says. “This semester, the mission is more about how design could reach a bigger percentage of the population, in the middle class.”


About Guy N. Texas

Guy N. Texas is the pen name of a lawyer living in Dallas, who is now a liberal. He was once conservative, but this word has so morphed in meaning that he can no longer call himself that in good conscience. Guy has no political aspirations. He speaks only for himself.
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