N55

by Robert Such

Dutch collective N55’s Walking House invites visitors to take a look at their “own way of living, and how you spend your life, how you behave towards other people and presents a concrete situation for people to interact with the work and provides a place for potential discussion,” says artist and N55 co-founder Ion Sørvin.

Walking House, a living space on legs.

Recalling Archigram’s Walking City, a 1964 architectural vision of giant post-apocalyptic domed cities on legs, N55’s mobile artwork was on the other hand designed to promote discussion about land ownership and sustainability.

The group believes in equal rights to land ownership for everyone. N55’s Land project has established 17 locations in Europe, Scandinavia and the US. Anyone can stay on these plots of land marked by a one-metre high cairn.

The idea for the walking house also developed out of N55’s appreciation for the design of Romany caravans.

Walking House presents “a practical way of suggesting other ways of thinking,” says Sørvin. With a solar cell on the roof, the house is powered by solar energy. “You can move around without leaving a significant mark on nature,” he says.

To design the structure, made of wood, plywood, steel and polycarbonate, Sørvin and Øivind Alexander Slaatto worked with Sam Kronick from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. To make it walk, they hooked up an onboard solar-powered computer to sensors and motors on the house’s six steel limbs. Inside the 3.72-metre-long and 3.5-metre-high house, the designers installed a kitchen sink and toilet at one end of the house. At the opposite end is a lower seating area and a bed on top in front of a wood-burning stove. The house uses a rain water collection and waste water filter system.

In building a full-size model, N55 is venturing beyond the drawing board. “It’s really important to actually try to make things work,” he says.

Since 1996, the Copenhagen group has been designing innovative products and mobile structures, focusing on self-sufficiency, nomadic living, low-cost designs.

Its Snail Shell System is a cylindrical rolling shelter plus boat made entirely of polyethylene, while its Soil Factory, a household compost, employs sustainable technology.

N55 publishes its work in manuals on the group’s website to allow others to use their ideas freely, as an open source.

A walking village could be next, giving the artists’ ideas even more legs with which to run and spread awareness about current environmental and social issues.

Articles about N55 and the Walking House published in Azure and Domus.

Article above updated for Collaborative City.

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