Thursday, February 20, 2014

WikiHouse: The Kit House Comeback

By Gretchen Sawatzki

I recently watched a TED Talk about democratizing architecture that really resonated with me. When I consider architecture I often think of the architect who was hired to design the structure. Is the architect well-known, famous, or important? But, does any of that actually matter? British architect Alastair Parvin doesn't believe so. He has devised a new way to think about architecture through a project called WikiHouse. This innovative concept doesn't require the high price tag of an architect, it doesn't even require a project manager, just a downloadable plan, CNC machine, and two or three people.

What's fascinating to me is that this idea of democratizing architecture is not new.  Building an inexpensive dwelling on your own is a concept that reaches back to barn-raising in farming communities and kit homes one hundred years ago. The wow factor though is in WikiHouse's ease in construction and accessibility. One hundred years ago a person would need access to a railroad to receive their mail-order kit homes from Sears and Roebuck. Kit houses would even require a plethora of tools to get the job done, making the execution from start to finish more of marathon than a pleasant stroll. WikiHouse is different. Through an internet connection anyone can get the building plans they need to build a house. All the tools that are required are a CNC machine to take those free plans and cut them into tangible wooden construction parts. With no construction experience, a couple of people can build a home in about a day; talk about democracy.

And, what about the architect? Since WikiHouse is a shared open source anyone can tweak the program and be their own designer. And, as technology becomes increasingly shared in free formats, the need for traditional professions including architects will change. So what does that mean for the everyday homeowner? You are no longer forced to buy into a cookie-cutter market, and you can become your own architect! Check out this 15-minute video, Architecture for the People by the People, and share it with your friends!

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