Mind & Matter


The Domestic Realm Turned Upside-Down—Literally

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Roll It house, designed by students at the University of Karlsruhe.


Originality in design does not usually result from the fundamental rethinking of every detail—which is both prohibitively time-consuming and expensive—but rather from focusing on one primary characteristic and shifting it into new territory. Take the Roll It house designed by University of Karlsruhe students, for example, which offers a completely novel interpretation of a mobile home.

Roll It wraps a domestic program around the interior of a cylindrical volume. In one configuration, Roll It provides access to a work space and kitchen. When inhabitants’ needs require, the house can be rotated 180 degrees to allow the use of a bed and bathroom. The structure requires a minimal footprint and exterior slats allow it to be locked into position.

To be certain, life in such a house would require a change of habits as well as the clever resolution of technical details (Roll It’s toilet seat locks in place, for example). However, the 360 degree sectional distribution of program effectively doubles the amount of activities that may occur in one volume—a clever, if quirky, example of the way tweaking a single idea can open up new possibilities in design.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.