Tricycle house: the latest in ultra-flexible accommodation

Sensemaking / Tricycle house: the latest in ultra-flexible accommodation

Designer presents a three-wheel home as one answer to China's overcrowding and pollution problems.

29 May 2013

A campervan it isn’t. Designed by China’s People’s Architecture Office (PAO) and the People’s Industrial Design Office (PIDO), the bijou tricycle house is made of translucent recyclable polypropylene plastic with sides and arched roof folded in the style of an accordion. Using origami-like techniques, the interior can be configured in different ways to turn it into a kitchen, dining area, bedroom or bathroom (there’s a water tank and an ingenious fold-away bath tub). All the owner has to do is find somewhere to park, and they’ve got a home for the night.

It’s a dwelling that might appeal to ‘new nomads’ – those for whom technology means more flexibility and who welcome alternatives to the restraints of conventional housing [see 'The dawn of the new nomads'] – as well as those who find themselves pushed to the margins by formal urban economies, including those who are forced to travel on a daily basis in search of work.

“We built the tricycle primarily to bring attention to issues relating to housing costs in China, the inability to own land, and the intense traffic and pollution”, says James Shen, the principal of PAO.

Sadly though, there are no plans to put the tricycle house into production any time soon. “I’m not sure if the world is really ready for this type of living”, Shen opines.

Benjamin de la Peña, Associate Director of Urban Development for the Rockefeller Foundation, concurs that it shows the hallmarks of “a design exercise, rather than a sit down process to find out what people need”. For more practical examples of solutions to the urban housing shortage, he points to the award-winning, easy-to-construct moulded brickless dwellings produced by Moladi in South Africa, and the bamboo-based modular shelters developed by Micro Home Solutions for the homeless of New Delhi.

But for Shen, the design process is by no means complete: he hopes the open source template will be adapted to suit particular locations and lifestyles. “We developed the plastic structure specifically so that it can be easily manufactured locally using basic machinery.”

So, although this technology won’t be hitting the streets of Beijing, who knows if someone from Nairobi or São Paulo won’t pick it up and pedal with it? – Dixe Wills


Photo: People’s Architecture Office (PAO) + People’s Industrial Design Office (PIDO)

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