/ Wednesday, May 16, 2012 /
Jackie Lewis on the sport climbing route in "The Shaft" by Manchester Oblique.
Manchester's sole rock climbing gym, Vertical Dreams, has become somewhat of a staple novelty for the city and a haven for rock climbers looking for a respite during the doldrums of the cold season. While keeping a clean gym, regularly refreshed routes and a friendly and knowledgable staff have all been pivotal to the gym's continued success, a certain fraction of that success can contributed to Vertical Dreams' most unique feature, a 70 foot elevator-like shaft that has been remodeled into one of the tallest indoor climbing walls on the east coast.

A view of "The Shaft" directly from above by Manchester Oblique.

Jackie Lewis in the "The Shaft" by Manchester Oblique.

Housed in the recently renovated Waumbec Mill on at 250 Commercial Street, Vertical Dreams' sits atop the fourth floor with the shaft extending down to the second floor. Access to the shaft is gained second floor, or if you're willing to suit up and repel, the forth floor, as well. It's kind of an interesting dynamic owning a business with such a unique form of vertical space, professionals and passersby wandering the mills hallways may hear a sudden "CLUNK" through building's brick walls as some climber takes a 10 foot whipper at the crux of a route.

When Vertical Dreams owner, Corey Hebert, was prospecting places for his business, he found the shaft by accident:

When I was first looking at the space to start the gym, I did not know about the "shaft" but after drawing a floor plan, I realized that there was some more space behind a wall. I got permission to do some exploring and to my surprise I found that there was more than a little space. This sealed the deal for me. We had to demo a lot of stuff to make it safe and climbable but it was worth it.
 Despite the common moniker of "elevator shaft", the original purpose of the shaft is not well known and I have only come across skimpy anecdotal evidence suggesting that it was ever an elevator shaft. Another story I came across was that the shaft housed a large vat for dye production during the mill's textile days and that when the mill was being renovated, a gentleman removed that vat for nothing more than the scrap metal value, which was considerable. This story seems to make a little more sense to me as large amounts of dye may have been noxious to work around and required a more direct route of ventilation, in this case, a shaft straight to the roof of the building.

Members of the Vertical Dreams Tuesday/Thursday Night Crew climbing "The Shaft" by Manchester Oblique.

Jackie Lewis on the sport climbing route in "The Shaft" by Manchester Oblique.

Now climbers ascend the shaft daily on walls of pocked with synthetic climbing holds and boyscouts regularly descend the shaft by repelling from the top in search of a merit badge. What was once a very utilitarian space is now a place where memories are made as fears are conquered, clinging to plastic rocks with almost four stories of open space below you.

NOTE: Thanks to the Vertical Dreams "Tuesday/Thursday night crew" for allowing me to snap a few photos of them.

Another member of the Vertical Dreams Tuesday/Thursday Night Crew climbing "The Shaft" by Manchester Oblique.

What makes a beautiful street?

/ Tuesday, May 1, 2012 /

What makes a street pretty or inviting? Threatening or tumultuous? Is it the captivating architecture or the clever use of green space? The site lines or the width of the sidewalks? Recently, asked the same question and on Valentines Day opened a project that would begin gathering data on what defines a beautiful street.

A screen capture of the Beautiful Street Project.

In a Hot or Not type inquiry, using two windows linked directly to Google Street View, you can decide which streets are better looking. Itemizing what makes one street more aesthetically pleasing than another will take some months of collecting data, but it's a really interesting question and an important one when planning and redeveloping cities, such as revitalizing the Queen City's downtown.

Out of curiosity, I recently picked three side streets off of Elm Street in Manchester and asked the same question, what makes these streets beautiful or plain? I chose Lowell, Amherst and Hanover and noted some of the details. I found myself less concerned with the quaint nature of the Palace Theatre's wonderful entrance but the weird, formless gaps in the other two streets.

Hanover Street, looking north at the Opera Block by Manchester Oblique.

Hanover Street, known as the "opera block" between Chestnut and Elm, is a great primer for any city planner. It is a somewhat ubiquitous opinion that Hanover Street is the most beautiful street in Manchester and is the one street that gives people the feeling that they are in a larger city than they really are. This effect can be best experienced walking westward on Hanover towards Elm Street. The combination of the Citizen's Bank building, on the corner of Elm and Hanover, and City Hall Plaza, sitting across the street, really help to define Hanover's space and gives you the sense that you're walking into a busy downtown. The definition of space is the foundation of creating a beautiful street and Hanover continues doing that by keeping the gaps between buildings to a minimum.

In Jane Jacobs' "The Death and Life of Great American Cities", the author makes the argument that circulation, the ability to draw pedestrians from one area of a city to another, is the most important mechanic in city planning and development. While the Opera Block only spans a mere quarter mile, it draws people up and down its sidewalks all day long and into the night with a mix of business and entertainment establishments, with living space to boot. The majority of storefronts on Hanover are under the same roof of one long, brick building creating a more uniform aesthetic and commercial experience.

A look at the consistent storefronts along Hanover Street by Manchester Oblique.

Vines slowly scaling the wall of Hanover Street pakring garage by Manchester Oblique.

The Opera Block's archway leading to a parking lot behind the building. A nice device in preserving access yet avoiding a potential alleyway. In the background sits the New Hampshire 9th Circuit Courthouse on the neighboring Amherst Street. By Manchester Oblique.

From there you can pick some of the more obvious details like the trees that line the wide sidewalks and the decorative lighting around the branches, making for a more whimsical night look. Even the parking garage behind the Citizen's Bank building is unobtrusive, camouflaged with vinery and darker cement.

In contrast, Amherst and Lowell Streets are both fine streets that have flourishing businesses but somehow lack the magical look of Hanover Street.

Amherst Street's entrance from Elm Street is narrow, including its sidewalks, and not as well lit at night giving the space a sense of unease rather than an inviting nightspot. Granted the latter half of the block between Elm and Chestnut are dominated by a courthouse and a parking garage, but there are jarring gaps between many of the buildings that make it feel like you're on the backside of downtown as opposed to walking down one of its lively side streets. If you're walking along the northern sidewalk and round the corner of Consuelo's Taqueria, you're faced with a strange, overly large, and often empty, side street that grants access to a parking garage. From there, you're forced to cross to the next sidewalk at an odd angel as Amherst Street actually widens to allow parking on both sides of the street. It sounds knit-picky but it makes for a dissonant pedestrian experience and give the street an asymmetrical quality.

The entrance to Amherst Street via Elm Street by Manchester Oblique.

While the 9th Circuit courthouse (the old Union Leader building) isn't without its historic charm, it's facade lacks a grand entrance facing the street and instead opts for a side entrance that catty-corners a tiny parking lock that creates a weird gap between the courthouse and the current nightclub next door, exposing the backside of Hanover Street. Lastly, on the south side of the parking garage facing Amherst Street, there is a ditch between the sidewalk and the parking structure to accommodate the sunken level in the garage. It's a kind of negative space left by the garage's construction and tends to be a reservoir for rubbish and weeds (cryptoforestry?).

A picture of the aforementioned ditch on the south side of the Vine Street parking garage. The tinted rectangles have been added to emphasize the space. By Manchester Oblique.

The gap standing between the NH 9th Circuit Courthouse and the current nightclub next door on Amherst Street by Manchester Oblique.

Lowell Street fairs better with few more accessible business facades (especially those in the Gauchos building), better lighting, two interesting looking apartment buildings, slightly wider sidewalks and greenery that defines the space a little better. But the street is also riddled with large gaps for parking lots. At one point before the Red Arrow, the planter of the adjacent parking lot protrudes into pedestrian space forcing the sidewalk to jut out into the street. If anything, Lowell Street harbors a lot of potential for development if the parking lots were to be sacrificed.

A picture of the interrupted walking path on Lowell Street by Manchester Oblique.

A picture of the 62 Lowell Street building that houses several businesses and updates the look of an older, classy look with simple, modern awnings by Manchester Oblique.

The entrance to Lowell Street via Elm Street by Manchester Oblique.

A picture of the Wellington Trade Center parking lot that spans the space between the Red Arrow and Wellington Trade Center Building.

This is, of course, a completely subjective analysis of these streets, but it is important to note the conscious and often times unconscious sensations flowing through our minds and bodies when moving through an urban environment. There are subtle borders, barriers, pathways, symbols and marginal spaces that help guide us through the city everyday. They're often convoluted and stacked on top of each other through years of building and rebuilding. Think about how often you might walk around a city park instead of cutting through its grassy meadows or why the Millyard feels so disconnected from downtown. What makes a street a "shortcut" as opposed to a "main drag"? A bypass instead of a destination?

What makes a street beautiful to you? Please, leave your thoughts in the comments.

Manchester's winter wonderland

/ Saturday, April 14, 2012 /
Derryfield Park Winter Carnival showing people ski-jumping, via Manchester Historic Association.

While doing research for an upcoming post, I happened upon several old photos of Manchester's discontinued Winter Carnival. The information available on the defunct annual event is sparse, but it seems that Manchester used to hold a multi-day event celebrating winter by holding parades and transforming city parks into devoted sledding areas, luges and ski hills.

Group portrait of eight people during the Winter Carnival, on a New Hampshire Fire Insurance Company horse drawn Parade Float, via Manchester Historic Association. (1920s)
Copy photograph, view of the Snow Shoe Carnival a girl or young woman is seen being tossed in the air as a group of people gather around, via Manchester Historic Association. (ND)

Manchester started the Winter carnival in 1924 to some great success until it was discontinued at the end of the decade for unknown reasons (maybe the 1929 stock market crash). The carnival surfaced again in 1957, and by 1967 it had become the second largest in the nation, Minneapolis' and St. Paul's being the largest. The event featured a parade of 30 floats, 50 clowns and a 16 foot high animated rendition of Sir Winterhurst, the carnival's mascot. Skiing, ice fishing, hockey tournaments, sledding, snow shoeing, ice skating and snow mobile races were featured activities. The 1967 event, in particular, showcased the Parashoeing Championship, a skydive/snowshoe race that sounds like something right out of the X-Games.

The usual fanfare of music, food and games were staples of the Winter Carnival, along with the crowning of a Winter Carnival King and Queen. Beyond 1967, the carnival's fate becomes unclear, but it was eventually discontinued again. Smaller iterations have popped up over the years under the title of "Winterfest".

A medal from the 1967 Queen City Winter Carnival.

View of the 1927 Winter Carnival, via Manchester Historic Association. (1927)

As we rely less and less on the entertainment outside of our homes, it seems unfeasible that Manchester would resurrect this event again, but it's a wonderful idea that the city once regaled against the collective loathing of the cold season by transforming its parks and streets into a winter wonderland, embracing the snow and ice that garners so much disdain the rest of the year.

View of the Manchester Winter Carnival showing Textile Field Hockey. Melrose American Legion is playing against the Manchester Hockey Club which lost 1 - 0. David Leslie is one of the players on the field, via Manchester Historic Association. (1928)

INNER SPACE: Dark to light, bright and airy

/ Tuesday, April 10, 2012 /

On the west side of Manchester, a local photographer with a keen eye for interior design has been fixing up her apartment over the past 2 years. She has graciously shared the fruits of her labor with Manchester Oblique. For privacy purposes, she has asked for her name to be omitted.

What kind of building is the apartment in?

It's a 1917 New Englander. It was converted from a 1 family to a 2 family and has a lovely, big back yard.

Do you know any history about the building?

I have a picture from 1922 (which I can't find at the moment.) It was one of the first houses on the street and it was owned by the same family for 60 years. It was last renovated in the sixties or seventies I believe. The father was a woodworker so he built all of the wainscoting and molding throughout the living room, office and bedroom. My bedroom today would have been the living room and my kitchen is disproportionately big because it's the original size, I believe.

How would you describe the place before the renovations?
Good bones, but too dark and very outdated. It had been a rental property for ten years so it needed lots of attention and love.

Did you find anything weird about the apartment when you started working on it?
Of course! The basement bathroom vent emptied into the heat vent in what is now the laundry room, which is obviously DIY gone wild.

There was newspaper for insulation in the kitchen. There is a secret, flat cabinet on the floor of one of the kitchen cabinets too which is really odd. The bedroom closet didn't have walls. It was simply a series of wood paneling layered together.

What kind of aesthetic and feeling were you looking to get from the place and what did it take to obtain it?

I wanted light, bright and airy. I loved all of the detailing of the built-in cabinets, wainscoting and molding, but wanted to freshen everything up making it a mix of traditional and modern. It took several tons of paint (and sanding), removing a sliding glass door that separated the kitchen from the living room, adding new floors that reflect light, new windows, relocating the exterior side door, replacing all of the lighting and adding more, and cleaning everything.

It's still not finished as you may be able to see from the photos. I am still in the process of decorating and adding furniture. I need a bed frame for example and a few pieces for the room with the orange wall. And I need to finish the kitchen- counter top, back splash, new oven, stove top, sink, and faucet. All in time though. It's very liveable in it's present state, just not perfect.

What's your favorite room in the apartment now?

I would have to say the kitchen because it spacious and I adore the color green of the cabinets. I also really love my bedroom because of the gorgeous muted pinky/ purple color which is only heightened by softest, glowiest, abundant natural light. It's also the first grown-up bedroom I've had and that feels good.

What's your favorite little detail?

There so many unique details in this house that it's really a series of unique details. If I had to choose one that came with the house it would be the wall oven. If I had to choose one detail that I'm responsible for it would be the door knobs. They were mismatched and brass mostly and didn't match the house.

More photos after the jump.

Have an innovative, creative, modernized, retrofitted, renovated, experimental, inventive or unusual living space? Share it with Manchester Oblique. Email your information to daniel dot brian at gmail dot com.

875 Elm Street

/ Monday, April 2, 2012 /
875 Elm Street by Manchester Oblique.
Manchester has a lot of historic and interesting buildings, but there are few that can contend with the downright classy aesthetic of the Citizen's Bank building at 875 Elm Street.

The Citizen's building stands on the southern corner of Elm and Hanover Streets, at the mouth of the Opera Block, the city's crown jewel of side streets. The building stands like a textbook pillar of early skyscraper construction, a style straddling the tail end of industrial revolution and modern architecture, its stone masonry hanging from a hidden steel frame with stone lions watching stolidly from the building's ornate cornice.

A corner of 875 Elm's cornice by Manchester Oblique.
Built in 1913, the building housed the now defunct Amoskeag Bank and was bought by Citizens Bank in 1993. When the Amoskeag Bank was built, architecture was in a precarious place with the idea of "form following function" hanging heavy over many drafting tables in America while the heavily ornate style of art nouveau ramped up in the upper echelons of Europe. The debate of ornamentation versus "pure function" raged in the architectural circles around the world, the most vocal argument being made by an Austrian architect, Adolf Loos, in his 1908 essay "Ornament and Crime". Skyscrapers (defined as anything ten stories or taller), were born out of the paradigm shift in building materials, favoring new steel super-structures in place of wood and stone, allowing the stone masonry and other materials to hang from the building as opposed to supporting it. The Citizen's Bank building embodies this time period very well.

A drawing of 875 Elm Street by Unknown.
The Amoskeag Bank being constructed in 1913 via Manchester Historic Association.
The building stands ten stories tall and is a text book example of a Chicago Style skyscraper, a column divided into three distinct parts: the first floors utilized as a store front, the middle floors lacking any decoration while the top floors have some ornementation. The whole building is capped off with an elaborate cornice, balancing form and function, albeit neo-classical form.

The cornice by Manchester Oblique 
The seemingly functionless balcony hanging from the facade by Manchester Oblique.

Corner mantelpiece by Manchester Oblique.
Pseudo-Corinthian columns emblazoned on the sides of the first floors. If you look close, you can see small beds of spikes atop ideal pigeon landing spots. Photo by Manchester Oblique.
Inside the original Amoskeag Bank in 1913 via Manchester Historic Association.

88 Lowell St. and living architecture

/ Tuesday, March 20, 2012 /

88 Lowell Street, courtesy of the New Hampshire Institute of Art.
It goes without saying that there is a dearth of modern architecture in Manchester. Hollowing out older buildings and modernizing their innards is a more common practice in the Queen City, and the new structures that do go up tend to be conservative designs, embodying America's "nice but professional" attitude towards architecture. But the New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA) has given the city a shiny, new and truly cutting-edge building that has been the boldest addition to the city's humble skyline in recent years and recently won Livable Manchester's "Best New Building of the Last Decade".

The NHIA building on 88 Lowell St. is a combination of academic and living space, utilizing the original facade of Manchester's first high school. If you stand on the corner of Lowell and Chestnut Streets, the small, brick schoolhouse sits modestly in the shadow of the new, six story, aluminum behemoth. Start walking north along Chestnut street, and you see the past and future are connected in an odd and stark cross section of industrial revolution and modern design.

View of the connecting corridor by Manchester Oblique.
The grammar school on Lowell Street opened in 1841 with less than two dozen grade school students. The second story was added in 1847 to house Manchester's first high school with a very small class size of a dozen or so students. The student population exploded in the proceeding years coinciding with an economic boom and the schoolhouse was quickly outgrown by the high school student body. The first iteration of Central High School would be the result.

View of the First High School at the corner of Lowell and Chestnut Streets. Looking north east Lowell Street is to the north (Left) and Chestnut Street is in front. Over the door a sign reads Manual Training School. It was the Lowell Street Grammar School (1841), via the Manchester Historic Association.
Eventually, the schoolhouse would lapse into an office for school administration officials before being abandoned in the late 20th century, a common thread in the history of Manchester's former schoolhouses. The NHIA bought the property from the city in 2007 and began renovations. The property had been boarded up 20 years prior and experienced extreme neglect.

The schoolhouse prior to renovations. From Google Maps.
After rebuilding the entire foundation and then some, the schoolhouse was scooted forward to the lots southern edge and the bluish-silver, futuristic looking building was put up behind it. The two are adjoined by a short corridor. As students enter the schoolhouse, they travel through a time warp of sorts, leaving the present and plunging into Manchester's Victorian past, only to find themselves in a not too distant future with a few quick strides across the schoolhouse and into the new building. 

The NHIA's building is a bastion of cutting edge design, giving Manchester's future developments a standard to live up to. From the outside, it's easy to see the solar panels that shade the south facing windows on each floor and the reflective siding that helps the building avoid the "heat island" effect. But the environmental efficiencies go much deeper than that, as they are ingrained in almost every aspect of the building, from the geothermal pumps that heat and cool the structure, to very materials it was built with.

Side view of 88 Lowell Street from above Chestnut Street, courtesy of The New Hampshire Institute of Art.
When I asked the NHIA for information about the building, the documents I received back were a staggering list of environmental considerations that had been taken into account, far too many to post here. But of the most notable were elements like the roof's rain filters that gather water, filter it and reintroduce back into the environment at a controlled rate, as not to contribute to river and pond overflow. Rain water is also used to flush toilets and reduce water demand all over the building. Along with the geothermal pumps that heat and cool the building, a high efficient gas boiler is used to heat the water, and helps to eliminate over 100 tons of gas waste a year. The floors and insulation are composed of completely recycled materials.

Living space inside 88 Lowell Street, courtesy of The New Hampshire Institute of Art.
Living space inside 88 Lowell Street, courtesy of The New Hampshire Institute of Art.
While the meat of the environmental efficiencies at 88 Lowell are impressive and well beyond anything seen in Manchester, inside the building are more subtle efficiency nuances like LED light fixtures, reflective ceilings that help better disperse light and even specific plant life to help with irrigation needs. It is also worth mentioning that the building is outfitted with Dark Sky compliant lighting, something that is on a whole other level of environmental consciousness of reuniting metropolitan populations with the night sky.

The NHIA is seeking LEEDS Gold status for 88 Lowell Street, a prized architectural certification for environmental efficiency, and it's no wonder, as it must be more akin to living in something closer to a generational starship than a dormitory at times. Outside of major metropolitan areas, it often seems like educational institutions, like the NHIA, are the last bulwark of innovative, intriguing and culturally risky design in the United States. It's almost a shame that college kids are unleashed into a world of ho-hum office buildings and industrial parks after leaving school with buildings like 88 Lowell. But with colleges and universities becoming trend setters in architectural design, what will urban campuses look like in 50 years when the global population has grown by 2 billion and over 60% of people live in cities? 

While LEEDS certification offers a wonderful and thoughtful set of constraints for architects to work in and force creative solutions to offset human presence, I was reminded of a 2010 TED talk by Rachel Armstrong that emphasized the idea that the construction of any building (by today's standards), no matter how environmentally efficient, is still a negative impact on the surrounding environment. Armstrong is working towards the reality of "living architecture", buildings and structures composed of semi-living proto-cells that secrete hardened shells, not unlike the fossilized remains of marine organisms that make up limestone. But unlike lifeless limestone, these proto-cell structures would have an active relationship with the surrounding environment, an example of which, she says, could be to act as a carbon emissions sink.

Armstrong's buildings might not be built so much as grown, shaped in a series of constraints and molds. Maybe industrial 3D printers will construct the initial shape of the building, dispersing the proto-cells according to a CAD drawing. Over the course of 20 years, these living buildings could become bulbous open-air reefs growing outward and inward, condensing corridors that students have to eventually squeeze to pass through while encroaching on city sidewalks to the shrill warnings of local government. Universities would raise tuition, not so much to renovate, but reshape their campus. Local eras would rise and fall with each shaping. In 2070, the campus looks something more akin to ancient Greece, and in 2090 it sports an homage to the organic nature of Gaudi's work, all the while forging a relationship with the local environment, creating new micro-ecosystems. Microbiologists could be the new maintenance staff, protecting and maintaining the buildings from infection and disease.

It is also worthing noting that living architecture is already a reality on a less sophisticated level in Meghalayas, where locals have been constructing living bridges for generations by manipulating the growth of fig tree roots over gullies and precipices. 

Yurt Town

/ /
A photo of a yurt, via Rochester Green Living.
Last month, Seacoast Online ran a a piece about a man that has proposed building yurts for the homeless.

Timm Piper has an idea for housing homeless people who are unwilling to stay in, or who are barred from, Seacoast shelters. 
"Some homeless people just don't want to live in a shelter," said Piper, a 43-year-old sales representative from Exeter. "Some prefer to be alone, or in small communities in the woods. Why not help accommodate this?"
Yurts are a type of nomadic housing that has roots in Central Asia and have recently become a Western phenomenon, offering an alternative to log cabin renters. They're round, compact, incredibly efficient, cheap to build and portable, in a loose sense of the word. In northern New Hampshire, it is not uncommon to find the sides of mountains dotted with the tiny dwellings that can be rented by peace seekers. Using the ground or a simple foundation of planking, yurts utilize a wooden lattice work as a circular wall that supports a number of wooden beams that make a coned or domed roof. The structure is then wrapped in any number of insulating and weather-proofing materials. In cooler climates, a wood stove often sits in the center of the yurt with its chimney protruding through the pinnacle of the roof.

A yurt being assembled, via Wikipedia.
In the Seacoast article, Piper explains that these Yurts would sit on donated or government owned land, giving the homeless an alternative to living in a shelter or freezing on the streets. Barring a lot of the debatable logistics of such a noble endeavor, I was intrigued by Piper's solution and reasoning: that regardless of the norms of our society, the American Dream of home ownership is not ideal for some and even being woven into the tapestry of a larger community, like Manchester, can be unattractive. Our country does not deal with the idea of societal conscientious objectors very well, for all intents and purposes, being homeless is practically illegal in the United States. But what if we gave people the option and all it required was a government subsidized structure and the land it sat on?

I imagined a small compound of yurts beside the unused streets atop Hackett Hill in Manchester's north-west quadrant. Nomadic peoples milling about, building a small, self-taught community that minimally relied on the small city below. Maybe Yurt Town residents would raise small amounts of livestock to be sold in local butcher shops at a premium, where the meat would inevitably end up in front of patrons of Manchester's more food conscious restaurants. In the summer, nightly bonfires would rally the growing village where stories, jokes and light discourse would be passed, binding the community to one another in friendship. Families might grow in the small community and face the inevitable question of whether or not rejoining the city below, with all its perks and headaches, is worth the potential ridicule and lack of support of their neighbors.

The inside of a yurt, via
The picture painted above is a pretty idealistic scenario, the best one could hope for with such an idea, but Piper's idea asks the question, is the society we're born into the only option? Why can't I opt out? It's a good question, one better answered by philosophers and lunatics, but under its all encompassing umbrella is the question of what "home" is to people. Does a home have to be a house or an apartment? Does a home have to be attached to a mortgage or rent? Does it even have to be attached to the ground it sits on?

With a true encroaching sense of a global economy and community, the idea of a home may change rapidly over the 21st century. Since the birth of the Federal Housing Administration in 1934, the United States has been nudging its population towards the two car garage and picket fence, and eventually the McMansion, with federally underwritten loans. This effort would inevitably lead us to the economic shenanigans of the last decade, somewhat proving that houses, that have doubled and tripled in size since the 1950s, might be unsustainable for every family, undermining a cornerstone of the American Dream. Couple that with people like Andrew Hudson, a recent college graduate who moved to India in 2009 because he couldn't find a job in the States, who presses the question, in 50 years will people be considering a move to Shanghai after college or receiving a job offer, just as easily as we might consider a move to a neighboring state?

The idea of a home might see a drastic paradigm shift to people being less attached to their surrounding living structure or maybe even more attached to a structure they can bring with them. Several months ago I came across a "house" designed by Adam Kalkin built almost completely using shipping containers.

"12 Container House" by Adam Kalkin.

"12 Container House" by Adam Kalkin.
While the above house is immobile, it's pretty easy to imagine a world where jet-setting job seekers and contractors buy specially built or retrofitted cargo containers (outfitted with satellite, wireless internet and all the comforts of the modern age) that could be packed up and hauled off by an 18 wheeler to the next "job site." Developers could build complexes where you don't pay for the roof over your head, but the door and space your container is attached to. Containers would line the outer edges of buildings with shared communal spaces where your neighbor in 10A could be different every month. Parking garage super structures would be built, housing several levels of living containers at the base of an arboretum style skyscraper, a glass and steel bastion protruding through the pollution filled nethersphere.

"Container Living Complex" by Manchester Oblique
In the same vein, I found Jimenez Lai's White Elephant, a building within a building concept, a fun, ultra-futuristic possibility that accentuates the idea of home mobility further. While Lai's White Elephant has been described as "super furniture" that can be manipulated to sit in any number of different positions, its crystalline shape juxtaposed against the metallic hull gives it the feeling that a larger iteration should be floating through the blackness of space, or the hollowed out innards of an asteroid tethered to a network of similar living spaces that could be towed (or propelled?) to its next location.

"White Elephant" by Jimenez Lai via BLDGBLOG

"White Elephant" by Jimenez Lai via BLDGBLOG
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