It's a sad but true trend of the times: we are increasingly an indoor species, prone to staying inside for hours every day, to the point that even our kids are becoming deprived of contact with nature, spending less time outdoors than prison inmates.
It's a serious problem, and besides obviously modifying our behaviour, we might also redesign our homes to invite more contact with nature. Seen at the Salone del Mobile during Milan's Design Week, this housing prototype created by New York City-based design firm SO-IL gives its inhabitants an "active [living] experience". Standing three levels high, the structure is conceived as a series of "porous realms" enveloped in a breathable, light-permeable skin of "purifying fabric" that filters light and air.
Dubbed "Breathe", the design was done in collaboration with MINI Living and located on a previously vacant urban lot measuring 538 square feet. Aiming to creatively use urban space with a minimal carbon footprint, a modular steel frame was used to build the structure, which is loosely divided into six 'rooms' and a roof garden, which is rigged to collect rainwater for use downstairs.
At the ground floor is the kitchen area, which fosters social interaction with outside guests. The spiralling staircase leads up to the upper floors for lounging, work and sleep, which also have semi-opaque screens for privacy but still let enough light through.
It's almost like a vertical tent that could occupy under-utilized urban spaces: the structure's reusable skin is made out of a translucent PVC mesh that performs like a jacket, creating a microclimate of sorts inside. It is a filter for light, which changes the quality of sunlight in different spaces throughout the day -- and a filter for air, as it has a coating that captures dust and dirt from entering the interior space. As MINI Living's Oke Hauser tells Designboom:
The fabric transforms the whole installation into a performance machine. Guests can really experience the conditions that are around the house. The whole building is an interface with the surroundings, and lets people interact with it and experience it as well. I think this is probably the most important feature of the solution because it really connects inhabitants to the environment around them and all the different elements of nature.
Breathe's flat pack design means that it can be easily disassembled and transported for reassembly elsewhere, whether in an urban or natural setting. Though it's not practical in all climates, the design is meant to challenge conventional ideas about what housing could look like, and to encourage heightened interactions with nature -- something that many of us are certainly in need of today. For more, visit Designboom, MINI Living and SO-IL.