Building Blocks: Open Source Spaces for the Many
with Johanne Holm-Jensen and Mia Behrens
On April 1st, 2021, for the first day of About *Design*, PCA held a Spatial *Design* talk with Johanne Holm-Jensen and Mia Behrens, architects and creators of Building Blocks.
If you missed it, here is a summary.
Johanne Holm-Jensen and Mia Behrens are architects from Denmark, who created the project Building Blocks as part of their six-month-long residency project at SPACE10 – a research and design lab on a mission to find innovative solutions to some of the major societal changes expected to affect people and our planet in the years to come. Johanne and Mia’s idea emerged from their research on global architecture that could be manufactured locally. Their goal was to imagine sustainable, adaptable and low-cost cabins that could be used for several purposes and by people all over the world. They followed SPACE10’s ideal of “Creating a better life for people” and came up with the project Building Blocks, an open source exploration of future spaces.
Thinking about the issue of the world’s population growth and the pressing need for affordable housing, Johanne and Mia asked themselves the question; “How can we design architecture that is simple enough so that everybody can build it?” To find some inspiration, they did a digital exploration of what existed in terms of cabins around the world. They finally imagined a construction unit that could be customized to suit any landscape, terrain and culture, and built locally through the use of local materials and a digital fabrication tool. The building blocks also needed to be fast and easy to build and assemble by few people.
In order to make their project accessible to everyone, they thought of uploading it on a platform that would enable people to customize their new space to their liking. By making their project an open source, Johanne and Mia allowed people to download and print the cutting files and the manual for free. With access to local materials and a Fab Lab, it’s thus possible for nearly everyone to build their own “blocks” however they like it, by adjusting the bases of the building blocks.
As a way to materialize their work, Johanne and Mia designed a prototype, which aimed at testing the joineries, discovering the possible imperfections of their design and seeing how easy it actually was to build the structure. They had their prototype of a micro-house built with plywood in the weather conditions of Denmark – which constituted an extra challenge – using just one machine. It only took 2 weeks for 2 men to build the prototype, which – even though it’s not viable all year long due to the cold – holds to this day.
For Johanne and Mia, having their project being an open source is a way for them to share their knowledge for others to draw upon. Putting together the world’s collective creativity and expertise is making the construction of houses accessible to anyone and is surely the way towards democratizing these futuristic projects.