Reconfigurable Housing

In a fascinating lecture at EmTech India 2011 , Kent Larson, Principal Research Scientist and Director, Changing Places Research Group, MIT Department of Architecture, revealed how a home, which has a very small footprint (840 square feet), can function as an apartment two to three times that size. This is accomplished by way of a transformable wall system which integrates furniture, storage, exercise equipment, lighting, office equipment, and entertainment systems. Essentially the systems allows the bedroom to transform into a home gym, the living room to a dinner party space for 14 people, a suite for four guests, two separate office spaces plus a meeting space, or an a open dance floor. The kitchen can either be open to the living space, or closed off to be used as a catering kitchen. Each occupant engages in a process to personalize the precise design of the wall units according to his or her unique activities and requirements.

The customized, cost effective, high performance nature of this solution can also be applied to the affordable housing segment. Larson also drew comparisons to the automobile industry and invited us to look at a future where we can deliver mass housing more efficiently and productively with such ideas.

This is an important discussion at a time when we are facing a massive housing crisis in India. The shortfall of housing in India, according to the conservative official estimates of the tenth five year plan, is in the region of 24.71 million. According to the National Housing Board’s projections, the shortage of housing units in India is expected to further shoot up to 80 million units between 2007 and 2012. Over 90 % of this housing demand is from low-income families. This crisis demands a revolutionary response and the idea of mass-fabrication of housing is one such idea to explore.

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About the Author

Prathima Manohar Prathima Manohar is the Founder of “The Urban Vision” .Prathima is an architect, critic, writer and a TV Journalist. Prathima holds a bachelors degree in Architecture. She was awarded Stanford University’s prestigious Draper Hills Fellowship bestowed to rising international stars who work on issues related to Democracy and Development in 2011. She is a Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center Fellow where she researches & studies the use of ICT for Good Governance. She has been a contributing columnist on architecture, urban development and design with India’s Leading News daily – The Times of India. She has been a contributing TV Journalist with France24 and TF1 where she did news reports and several documentaries on Indian economy, Developmental and Cultural issues. She has also written for the opinion pages of the International Herald Tribune , The Wall Street Journal and has reviewed for the Architecture Record. She has authored a monograph on the works of one of India's leading architects. She has previously consulted on urban design & urban policy related subjects with architecture and large development firms. As an urbanist, she has worked on pilot projects and researched on issues such as affordable housing, participatory planning and green cities.