Print your own WikiHouse – the new Community Architecture

Following my post about the relaunch of the 1987 book on Community Architecture, Charles Knevitt sent me a link to an excellent TED talk spotted by his co-author Nick Wates. There Alastair Parvin presents a simple but provocative idea …

… what if, instead of architects creating buildings for those who can afford to commission them, regular citizens could design and build their own houses? The concept is at the heart of WikiHouse, an open source construction kit that means just about anyone can build a house, anywhere.

“As a society we’ve never needed design thinking more,” says Alastair Parvin, but most people — particularly those in cities of growing density and poverty — can’t afford it. Parvin, who was trained in architecture but chooses to make a career looking for ideas beyond its conventional framework, wants to change that.

He is one of a team behind WikiHouse, an open-source construction set that allows anyone to freely share model files for structures, which can then be downloaded, “printed” via CNC cutting machine and easily assembled. Parvin calls WikiHouse a very early experiment, the seed of what he sees as design’s great project in the 21st century: the democratization of production.

WikiHouse project in New Zealand by Spacecraft

So – same underlying ethos as the original Community Architecture, but now technology enabled with the potential for a growing Wikipedia for design. I asked Charles what he thought, and he wrote back:

The possibilities today for extending the lessons of Community Architecture have been greatly enhanced by two things: radical new approaches which enable local communities to build for themselves; and new media, such as the Internet, which didn’t exist when our book was originally published in 1987.

As far as new approaches are concerned, Alastair Parvin’s counter-intuitive ideas have a direct and immediate relevance to those without access to professional advice, and offer democratic societies a right to build. The design team is “everyone”, the means of production is “everywhere”. Barn-raising by local communities is a precedent. But now we have “open-source” solutions, leading the way to what he calls a third industrial revolution.

Who knows, the need has never been greater. The year our book was published the world population reached 5-billion. Today it is fast approaching 7.1-billion. That’s an additional 2-billion mouths to feed – and people to house. And the fastest-growing cities are self-made cities – the favelas, kampongs and barriadas.

More here from Alastair, where he makes clear it is early days and so far only prototypes are under development in different locations around the world.

Alastair is part of 00:/, where co-founder Indy Johar and colleagues move lots more great ideas into practice. Other projects here, and join in with WikiHouse here.


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