50 Houses: Materials

September 21, 2008

Houses made out of the remnants of other houses: Tiny Texas Houses.  Everything from the 50 Houses project will be reused in a similar fashion.  Everything that comes out of a house, and isn’t rotted and totally ruined will be put back in a house someday.

Roof shingles made from fly-dumped car tires: CoLab.  We want to think creatively to find cheap, sustainable solutions to basic problems.  Here is a great example.

Still on the lookout for similar ideas…


Hello World! We are really excited to share with you an interactive project we have initiated in the Fulton Market District of Chicago. We’ve take 3 architecture students and asked them to live in a warehouse loft for 9 months. The catch? The loft is completely open, free of partition walls and the students are only allowed to create their personal space out of found materials.

The goal of the project is to study a new form of living. A lifestyle where the users generate their own spaces using what they have and what they can find. How will they divide the space amongst themselves? How will their individual spaces change over time as they get lived in and conditions change? How do they address privacy? What materials do they find and build with? How do they use waste materials in new ways

We invite you to join us on this adventure and follow along as we take a look at each resident, their building materials, and how their user generated spaces live and adapt.

50 Houses

September 11, 2008

So the project is called 50 Houses, and basically it looks at a neighborhood where 1000 houses once stood and only 50 are left.  The phenomenon of “Urban Prairie,” where whole blocks are just left to nature, where neighborhoods once stood but now it’s just wreckage and abandonment.  This is pretty much characterized by the city of Detroit, where a population of 3,000,000 somehow dwindled to less than 1,000,000, 2/3 of the population gone, leaving thousands, and thousands and thousands of houses abandoned.

This project looks at a solution for that, how we can take that condition and turn it into something positive as opposed to negative.  Rather than have the city doze the place, using tax payer dollars, and starting over, we choose to leave what’s left there, and not only use it but to celebrate it.  To look at it’s history, it’s past, what it went through, rather than just putting up some townhouses that we already know don’t work.  We want to somehow bring regeneration to the city and to glorify the urban prairie for what it is, to make it the new place to be.

In the 70’s, artists flocked to New York warehouses because they were seemingly unwanted, useless, nobody would dare think to live in one, and so they were cheap.  Detroit is seen in a similar light today, seen as dangerous, unfit for the average person,  seen as dirty and inhabitable.  The starving economy, ever so prevalent in Detroit, the foreclosure, the abandonment all figure into the equation, which equals really really low property values and an excess of space.

Nobody is denying the corruption in the government, nobody is denying the crime,  nobody is denying the abandonment , but we do seem to be denying the possibility that something beautiful could come from that.

In the 50 Houses project, we look at stabilizing the remaining homes in these burnt out neighborhoods, gutting the interiors, reusing everything, leaving a simple lofted space open to your suggestion and input.  A space that maintains the history of place, maintaining a certain aesthetic recognition to the past, yet completely open to your lifestyle.

Lofts were made out of warehouses because they were there, unwanted, cheap.  Today, 100 year old residential structures that are left hanging on in Detroit, beyond restoration, they are still there, they are unwanted, and they are cheap.  Instead of infilling the neighborhood with poor quality townhomes,  the fields will be left to grow natural prairie grasses, that are so prevalent in urban prairies, reading not only to the recent past, but also the days before we were even here.  In the winter, this can be harvested, converted to biofuel, and used to heat the homes.  Community gardens might pop up, providing fresh local food for the residents.  Maybe a past garage is turned into a chicken coop, providing eggs and poultry.  Maybe a park gets built out of the remains of the past buildings allowing a place for relaxation and for children to play.  Maybe a new community could grow, rich with context, rich with history, rich with creativity, sustainability, and ambition.

Yes, we can look at things with a new perspective, we can use what we already have, we can build a new America, we can build a new Detroit.  Yes we can turn what little we have, into our greatest asset.