Pile-up Housing by Hans Zwimpfer: Can You Patent Architecture?

The New York Times covers 78 year old Hans Zwimpfer's Pile up housing. They call it a solution to sprawl, describing it as follows: "Take single-family houses, whose benefits — space, privacy, light, a yard — suburbanites are loath to give up. Then simply stack the houses, one on top of another. Voilà: The comforts of suburban living, with the convenience and ecological benefits of urban density."

But Sally Crane does not go into the most unusual and controversial part of Zwimpfer's work- he patented it.

US Patent 7,237,361 describes the system:

"The invention presents the concept of a residential building which is constructed on the principle of staggered dwellings. The staggered dwellings each have a single-storey dwelling part (10, 23) and a two-storey dwelling part (11) with outdoor area. The living area (10 and 11) of the dwelling is open and allows individual living requirements to be realized with a variability which has not been known up until now. The division of space is not fixed by the static system. The type of accommodation presented can be realized in all types of urban construction such as blocks of flats, block-edge developments or high-rise buildings from two storeys upwards. The sizes of dwellings may be determined in accordance with the location and the target group. Combining the accommodation with service-related and commercial use is made possible in a completely new way using this principle."

None of that sounds very different from what Le Corbusier did in the Unite D'Habitation in Marseilles or what Moshe Safdie did in Habitat 67. I also wonder if he could possibly defend it; architectural patents are really tough.

I got one once, good old number 5469669,, cost me thousands and looks very impressive on the wall. But change one thing and it is no longer the same building or idea, so it was pretty much worthless. I doubt that Mr Zwimpfer's is much better. Architects have been honouring, referencing, learning from and stealing from each other since Hammurabi and a patent isn't ever going to stop it.

::New York Times See also ::aarchitecture-ready for copyrights?

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