Mad for MADI, the Folding Wooden Prefab A-Frame


This brilliant design brings the A-frame into the 21st century

A-frame structures were hugely popular in the fifties and sixties; I have noted earlier that "they were easy to build, incredibly efficient in their use of materials, and they were almost all roof, and nothing is cheaper than shingles." They fell out of fashion because the spaces were awkward, but there is nothing stronger than a triangle.

Madi at exhibition

© MADI model at Milan Furniture FairBut they may be back with a vengeance, thanks to Renato Vidal and his totally brilliant design for a folding modular living unit. The M.A.Di, short for modulo abitativo dispiegabile or unfoldable housing module. Not only is it prefab and mobile, but it is made of our favorite material, Cross Laminated Timber. It is shipped not quite as a flatpack, but with all of its panels hinged together.

Assembly of MADI


One then connects a crane to the top and lift, and it turns into an almost A-frame. When you flip up the second floor and lock it into place, it becomes a rigid triangle, a classic A. It can be assembled in about six hours. It is described in greater detail in the US Patent:

Madi Patent drawings

United States Patent /Public Domain

An unfoldable modular living unit includes one or more folding modules having a bottom, pitched roof elements forming the roof and the side walls, and two opposing facades, front and back. Each one of the modules includes a folding and collapsible structure having two adjacent rigid sides or walls hinged to each other through a hinge or a fixed knot, a third foldable side or wall hinged to the first two rigid sides or walls, and at least one intermediate plane hinged to one of the pitched roof elements and suited to be constrained to the other pitched roof element.

56 meter plan


Then you line up as many modules as you want to make a building as big as you want. The single module unit seems a bit tight but put two together and you get a really nice two bedroom unit at 56m2 (602 SF) .

84 meter plan


And the 84 M2 (904 SF) version is a really nice three bedroom unit.

Watch the assembly in the video; it is very impressive. It can sit on any kind of foundation, but the designer recommends screw piles, which I just learned about recently and will be the subject of another post. The benefit: "This new anchoring system has no impacts on soil and it is recoverable at 100%. When the building eventually ceased to be used, you can fold it and move it to another place, or store it in a warehouse ready for the next use."

madi in milan

© MADI model at Milan Furniture Fair

The specifications are pretty good, with the wall panels made of 87 mm (3.5") Cross Laminated Timber or Xlam, as they call it (much better term than CLT), covered with a 4-inch-thick sandwich panel of polyurethane foam. The end walls can be just about anything. It is built by Area Legno, a big, experienced carpentry company, who cut the Xlam on CNC machines.

MADI rendering

© MADI interior perspective

It is all plumbed and wired and ready to go, complete bathrooms, stairs linoleum flooring and interior finishes. The price for the 56m2 2-module unit is 46,000 euros, delivered and installed within 200 Km of their factory. That's US$54,245 and that is a very reasonable price.

small version


I wasn't crazy about the 27m2 290 SF version until I saw this in the patent:

single bay on a trailer

© US Patent

It can be a tiny house on wheels! Just drive or trailer it to where you want and unfold it. Not exactly like putting up a tent, but it does raise even more possibilities. This is so exciting, truly bringing the A-frame into the 21st century.

madi model

Lloyd Alter's really bad model of a MADI/CC BY 2.0

They even give you a download where you can build your own really tiny house. I am going to do it again in color with a better glue and a little more care. Lots more at MADI, the most interesting prefab I have seen all year.

Madi in the country

© MADI renderings