Houseboats, tricked-out caravans, and huts, as well as disaster shelters, wearable structures, cardboard cocoons, and futuristic prototypes: they all appear in Mobitecture, with plenty of images of inspiring, well thought-out, innovative, useful, or simply outrageous-looking constructions. And they all share one characteristic: they’re mobile. “The selected projects show a range of inspiring, individual, inventive units that offer various means of movement – such as through water, on wheels, or on sleds”, explains author Rebecca Roke. “They also illustrate key themes related to this type of architecture, including migration, downsizing or economising on space, homelessness, discovering the world through travel, and the activation of urban or public or abandoned places.”

Asked to name a few examples, Roke mentions the elegant structure resulting from Hwang Kim’s Master’s thesis at the Royal College of Art in London. “Secured by tabs with plastic buttons, the cardboard enclosure is light, easily folded away and carried, and improves on the usual option of boxes or newspapers to protect you from the elements.” Another one she mentions is more of a gimmick: a charging station and park bench bubble called Thor ter Kulve creates “a public-private space that transforms a modest timber park bench into a solo inflatable retreat with a solar-powered USB charger.” Roke also draws our attention to a house developed by People’s Architecture Office (PAO) + PIDO, a mobile structure addressing the reality of life in China, where individuals are not permitted to own land under the laws of the prevailing socialist government. “Tricycle House offers a roving alternative: a home on a tricycle frame.” Another design from Asia is the playful Yamaori Taniori Tent by Iyo Hasegawa, developed as a response to the massive earthquake that struck the northeast of Japan in 2011. “The origami technique used to form the tent generates a colourful, protective paper enclosure intended to rest and revive the senses.”

DESERTSEAL, Andreas Vogler, Germany, 2004. Polyethylene-coated plastic, electric fan, solar panel, nylon rope, zipper. Photo: Architecture and Vision
All very well, but how might this perpetual mobility affect our well-being? Could it also be – as some contemporary researchers and thinkers have pointed out – that this tendency is eating away our sense of self and actually making us unhappy? Asked how she, as the author of a book that focuses on the summum bonum of contemporary mobility, reflects on the matter, Roke replies: “Increasingly globalised lifestyles present certain opportunities – and challenges. Mobitecture provides examples of what can be achieved with mobile structures in a positive sense – places people can live in or holiday from that increase their sense of homeliness and the feeling of well-being that usually accompanies this. The projects have been selected because they are distinctive, characterful, and particular to those who have designed or used them. In that way, they express a sense of ‘self’ just as poignantly as the usual solid, immovable work of architecture can.” In any case, flipping through this book has certainly entertained us with its contagious visual ode to life on the move.

PARK BENCH BUBBLE, Thor ter Kulve, UK, 2014 Recycled timber, nylon, solar panel, USB charging station. Photo: Namuun Zimmerman
CAMPER CART, Kevin Cyr, USA, 2009. Steel shopping cart, chipboard, nylon, canvas Photo: Kevin Cyr
WEEKEND, Carlos No, Portugal, 2012 Moto-tricycle, timber, pvc, glass, nylon. Photo: Susana Dinis
This article appeared in DAM61. Order your personal copy.
WALDEN RAFT, Elise Morin, Florent Albinet, France, 2015 Pine, acrylic glass, polyethylene floats, rope. Photo: Raymonde Dapzol
MOBITECTURE by Rebecca Roke. Published by Phaidon 17 April 2017.