Pre-fab! Modular! Portable! While these "homes" are super trendy, how livable are they really?
That question piqued the interest of Spanish architecture firm Ábaton, who responded with the seductive, highly livable Portable Home ÁPH80. Ábaton, founded in 1998, is known for its elegant economically efficient designs, winning an Architizer A+ Award in 2013 in the Architecture + Sustainability category for its Off Grid Home in Extremadura.
The Portable Home demonstrates the same level of eco-consciousness and innovation inherent in all Ábaton's designs. Architizer recently spoke with project director Camino Alonso to find out some of the nitty-gritty details about the development of this compact residence, including how to distill the essence of a home and ... sheep!
All photographs by Juan Baraja.
Shipping container? No. Dollhouse? Yes.
"We have seen many portable or prefab houses that when you’re inside, you don’t really feel you’re inside a house. You feel like you’re inside a container or something different—but not a house. We studied the proportions to make sure that the sensation when you were sitting in the sitting room was a sensation of being in a house.
"We thought the house had to have a pitched roof—we needed that extra space in the vertical direction to manage that feeling of a comfy house. A toy house was exactly what we were looking for—very traditional and fundamental, like a house that you would have in [the game] Monopoly. ... It doesn’t belong to any certain culture, but anybody would understand it as a house. We didn’t want it to look like a shipping container; we wanted it to look like just a simple house, a small house, a fundamental house."
Letting the outside in (literally)
"If you look at the pictures, you will see that sometimes you feel—from the inside looking outside— [that] you’re in between the two places. You want nature and the environment to be really getting in the house.
"In fact when we [the house on location], we found that it was [in] a field full of sheep … so then when we did the photos, we asked the shepherd to come again with the sheep. Because we had that big huge window in the sitting room—we had that open—and one of the sheep wanted to get in! One of them wanted to live in the house, definitely."
"We wanted there to be contrast between the very simple shape and the sophisticated finish, so that you would understand it not as a luxury, but as a very special thing. It has a lot of thought put into even the way we screw the different panels, the way we put one piece of the kitchen next to another. Everything is very thought of and every centimeter is taken into account because we have so little space.
"The weight [was a big restriction] because this house is made of wood, but the outside is made of a type of cement together with a type of wood and a mixture of things. It’s a very very heavy material, so we had to work a lot on the thickness of that material so as not to make the house too heavy (because all the inside parts that go behind the wall are also very heavy)."
Transport and portability
"Transport, though, was really quite straightforward. When they pull it up and then they put it on top of the truck and then from the top of the truck, again, to the land, it’s a very slow movement with the crane.
"When the house was flying in the air—as you saw in the photos—there was quite a lot of wind, so it took us a little long to put everything in its proper place. But then it was quite easy to set it onto the plot. It merely comes itself out of the truck, you hang it and it really is quite easy to get straight.
"There are two hooks on top by which [the house] hangs by. In fact, we were going to get them out at the end, but afterwards we really liked the look of the house with the two hooks—it made it really portable-looking, no? But it’s made to take them off and then put covers on top."
Designing never stops!
"You were asking who this house was for? In fact, we had no idea. It wasn’t really addressed. But we found that the people asking for the house are usually people that already have a country house or a family house in the countryside, and they need an extra space or a little independence from the family.
"Some others are looking for that feeling of living in the middle of nowhere, and that is another option that we give—to have a completely self-sufficient house in the middle of nowhere. And we have so many people asking for the house from abroad, from Australia, from Japan, from the States. It’s amazing the amount of people that have seen the house and like it from so many places around the world.
"At the moment we are building budgets for shipping it abroad and finding the way to ship it with no risk of it breaking... We have studied if there is any way to make it a little cheaper, and one of the things that we have studied that makes it cheaper is changing those hooks at the top. if we change that and hold the house by hugging it from both sides, that is a little bit cheaper in terms of the structure in the house. [The crane] will be holding the whole house with a big huge rope and holding a hook from each of those ropes—it wouldn’t need such a stiff structure."
Camino Alonso, Architect and Creative Director at Ábaton.