01 Futurium MOB Lab Davidvon Becker 4689 w

Credits: David von Becker

Living on the move

Hybrid Catalogue House

Why should we only live in one place? The design collective Refunc has developed a future vision of short-term settlement on minimal resources: the hybrid catalogue house. This house is easily transportable and can be built using materials and tools available in any local area. It’s even easier to dismantle it! The house works according to the principle of circular economy.

01 Futurium MOB Lab Davidvon Becker 4689 w

Credits: David von Becker

What does “house” mean, anyway?

A hybrid catalogue house is just as mobile as the people living in it, because this house has no fixed blueprint. In fact, it changes shape according to its location and residents. The house consists of a metal rod framework that can be transported and assembled easily. Like in a catalogue, you then choose local things, materials and handicraft techniques to finish the house. In Beijing, renewable bamboo might be used, and the ancient craft of building sturdy scaffolding from bamboo canes. In the Argentinian coastal city of Ushuaia, you could collect driftwood from the beach and use alpaca wool blankets to protect against the strong winds. And in the Madagascan capital Antananarivo, a façade made of palm leaves offers protection from the sun. The founders of Refunc, Denis Oudendijk and Jan Körbes, have built the first hybrid catalogue house in the Futurium in Berlin. Bar tables become walls, moving blankets become insulation and clipboards form the façade.

Mobile living

Jan Körbes knows very well what it's like to travel with your house and live in a small space. In The Hague, the home of Refunc's office, he and his team built a so-called Tiny House out of an old feed silo that had been sitting around unused on a Dutch farm. With a lot of creativity and recycled objects, Jan constructed a a place to live and work on just 14 square metres. Since his daughter lives in Berlin and he has to be in Berlin for work, he loaded the house onto a trailer and transported the whole thing here. Now it stands at the Center for Art and Urbanistics in Moabit.

With his silo house, Jan has a vision for how we might all be living one day soon. Some of us already split our time between different cities, are globally connected and can work from anywhere. We store music, books and photos in the cloud, so objects that cannot travel with us become less important. Why not make sure the objects you do bring can help you build a home? Mobile Tiny Houses, such as the silo house or the hybrid catalogue house, may be a first glimpse of a mobile life in the future.

Everything can become anything

The house's design points to another important vision for the future: the circular economy. The idea of circular economy is to use things and materials as long as possible without them becoming waste. This is a real passion for Denis and Jan from Refunc: they love to give old things new life. They build beach chairs for an exhibition from ventilation shafts, an arena from rented folding chairs and an urban lounge from concrete parts from construction. What’s special is that they always think about the future of their projects. What happens when the exhibition is over? What happens when the arena is no longer needed? Or the lounge closes? The objects simply get their original function back. There is no waste.

This mindset is still an outlier today. 37% of all waste generated in Europe comes from the construction industry. Until now, little consideration has been given to what we do with construction materials when they’re no longer needed. If houses could be dismantled and their parts recycled, that would mean far less waste produced in the future. Instead, when houses are no longer needed, they could be sources of useful raw materials. Some architects already insist on only building according to the cradle-to-cradle principle, meaning only using reusable materials that do not produce waste.

A world without waste

With their work, Refunc wants to change the way we look at the things around us. Instead of seeing every object as having just the one function it’s designed for, Refunc wants us to see the potential in every thing: we can build almost everything we need from things that already exist. With this circular way of using resources, nothing needs to be thrown away - its function just changes. No more waste! If Denis and Jan can make houses out of benches and moving blankets, so can we all find new ways of building and living. In the future, everything can become anything.