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“More Mobile: Portable Architecture for Today”

News | March 1, 2009 | By:

In “More Mobile: Portable Architecture for Today,” the follow-up to her 2002 book “Mobile: The Art of Portable Architecture for Today,” Jennifer Siegel, founder and principal of Office of Mobile Design (OMD), presents a wide range of portable, adaptable and sustainable structures that can be used for today’s nomads.

Siegel calls it Generation Mobile. “They are a growing grass-roots, do-it-yourself movement,” she says, “impatient for change and looking for ways to inject the personal into the social, achieving a more fluid — and ultimately more authentic — experience of our contemporary cities and our changing culture.”

Contributors include Studio-Orta, whose “structures” are a mix of social fashion and body architecture; Andrew Maynard, whose BOB is a combination RV, tent and home; and Andreas Vogler, whose Desert Seal recently became part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. In addition to projects from OMD, other designers include Dré Wapenaar, Andrea Zittel, N55, Horden Cherry Lee Architects, Mark Fisher Studio, MMW, Lot-EK and Atelier Bow-Wow.

Using photos and drawings, the book is a catalog of well thought out designs of lightweight portable architecture in a variety of environmental situations. A number of interesting examples have received press outside of the construction industry for their use of technology transfer, using skills, materials or know-how in one field and incorporating them into another. Projects range from membranes, which form the extension of the body, to structures designed for lunar landings to more conventional style structures using traditional materials and methods with a sustainable twist.

Fabric plays a role in many of the examples, for obvious reasons. It is lightweight, durable, practical and portable. Membranes can be used simply as an awning to provide shade and protection from the elements or as an eye-catching enclosure with impact.

The School Wheel project by Atelier Bow-Wow in South Korea uses a combination of a blackboard on wheels and two supporting ladders to create a small outdoor classroom for 48 chairs.

The Frog and The Armonica, designed by Magne Magler Wiggen (MMW) provides a whimsical, yet striking, example of what one can do on a large scale. Temporary structures can be defined in so many ways and their use in this project was to generate both public interest and future plans with minimal impact using a combination of an air structure and semipermanent building.

Lastly, OMD’s own Globetrotter is an example of the future of the traveling performance venue. Coming to a flat spot near you, this deployable structure unfolds and inflates to provide all the back stage amenities one could need while also incorporating the latest in technology and in entertainment: Webcast towers, photovoltaic panels and LED screens.

The beauty in a sequel is to see how the characters grow or, in this case, how the industry continues to evolve. One hopes to see more of these mobile concepts become reality and some fresh new approaches continue this movement.

Samuel J. Armijos, AIA, is vice president of FabriTec Structures, a division of USA Shade & Fabric Structures, Inc., and a regular contributor to Fabric Architecture magazine. His book “Fabric Architecture: Creative Resources for Shade, Signage, and Shelter,” was published by W. W. Norton in 2008.

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