Waste can make for great materials and great buildings -- the only issue may be our dim view of so-called 'waste' which our throwaway culture says should be discarded, rather than remade into something new and useful. Thankfully, this short-term view with long-term negative consequences is slowing changing for the better.
Looking to show that old things can be transformed into beautiful, livable structures, Dutch architects Jan Körbes and Denis Oudendijk of REFUNC converted an unused grain silo into a small home for Körbes and his young daughter. The project, known as Silo City, is bursting with creative inspiration, and as a home that can move, it is surprisingly ergonomic and well-designed, as we see in this in-depth video tour via Kirsten Dirksen of Fair Companies:
The project came out of Körbes' need to find something more suitable and with more space for him and his daughter, after living in a cramped camper for two years. Known for other previous (and equally) creative recycling projects like this rubber-clad office and pallet-built theatre, Körbes has long wanted to convert a grain silo into a habitable house. As he explains:
It's in between a submarine, a house, a spaceship and a shelter; it's really a mix of many, many dreams and elements, necessities and needs.
Körbes purchased an old grain silo from a farmer (these are apparently quite abundant in the region), and began to remake the interior into a real home. To do this and maximize the tiny 4 metres-square (43 square feet) footprint, an extra floor was added, so that a small kitchen and hidden bathtub now occupies on the first floor, and a sleeping room is located upstairs. In total, USD $27,000 was spent on the renovations.
On the main floor, there is also two small closed-door alcoves that can serve as the toilet and shower room -- they are currently being used as storage, since father and daughter have access to a bathroom at the artists' residence where the silo is now parked. The kitchen floor is made from leftover cork panels that couldn't be sold, and the ceiling here is made with discarded photography plates.
The home is full of delightful surprises. Due to its configuration, there is no space for a stairway to go up, so a climbing wall has been installed instead. To bring things upstairs, a bucket on a rope and pulley (inspired from boat living) is used. For bathing, a bathtub has been installed in the floor, under a removable dining table surface, and it's heated with infrared technology, which lowers energy costs. When not in use, it can be covered with the dining table surface so that the entire floor can be used when guests come over (at last count, the most that fit in here was an impressive 38 people).
Compared to the tiny camper, the insulated, polyester silo's design has made for what Körbes calls "active house living": its ever-transforming interior can accommodate yoga, art, dinner parties, impromptu dance, or just a nice stretch for tall people standing up. It's all heated with a small woodstove, which is fed by salvaged wood, which is stored in a extendable basket that hangs over the woodstove (to dry the wood before use).
Upstairs, parts of another smaller silo were cut and integrated as part of the home's custom-designed insulation system. There are a few windows here, one larger one intended as a fire escape, and another one that leads out to the small balcony-like space. In the alcove leading out to the balcony, Körbes' daughter has her "drawing department" desk. At the top, there's a skylight made out of the silo's existing inspection hole.
Underneath the kitchen is yet another level, the basement where all the technical functions and heavy books are stored. There's a car battery here that stores the solar power, an 80-litre water tank, gas tank for cooking, and piping for the rainwater harvesting system that collects water in the 1000-litre tanks outside and waters the exterior living wall, which shades and cools the structure.
It's a remarkable little house, a real creative triumph down to the finest detail, showing that discarded things can once again serve nobly as someone's cherished home. What's more, it's a family home, a place for an architect to raise his daughter, who is extremely lucky child to have such a creative home life, and a father who sees waste as a resource, not as something to be thrown away. This is an approach we need to adopt across the board, as Körbes explains:
I'm an architect focusing on resources, on waste materials, on garbage streams, on reconnecting people and materials. [..] I really encourage society in general to think about 'the next'. All processes on this planet are extremely continuous, and all linked and interconnected and very circular. There's always the next process.
After living it in three years, Körbes has now installed the silo house as a short-term residence at Berlin's ZKU Center for Art and Urbanistics. The plan is to continue moving Silo City wherever it may be needed. To see more, visit Silo City and REFUNC.