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Remember the fable “The Three Little Pigs?” It is a story about three piggy brothers, where each builds a house to protect himself from a wolf that tries to eat him. Maybe it’s too simplistic, but let’s think about a wolf as the threats posed by nature.  When faced with the options to build a secure house, the older brothers frivolously chose straw and sticks. The youngest chose bricks.  Bricks are sturdy, fire-proof and versatile; so the youngest prevails, and successfully kills the wolf and gains safety and stability.

This summarizes the major aspect of what modern architecture has been attempting to achieve: stability and security. “But I am increasingly fascinated by a house made of straw,” says architect Yuko Nagayama, who designed HIRAGANA-NO SPIRAL HOUSE, with Panasonic.

no-conceptual-figureNo Spiral House looks like Japanese letter “No” (left). Conceptual drawing.

“NO” (not pronounced /noʊ/; it’s /no/) in Japanese hiragana looks like this: の

When you enter the “の” house from the opening, you will be guided inside along the outer curve, seamlessly. The outer circle walls function more like the straw chosen by the older piggy brother: light, soft, supple and flexible. If conventional houses aim to build sturdy shields/boundaries to separate the house from the outside environment, and divide individuals in separate cells, “の” house aims to blur and merge these shield/boundaries.

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No Spiral house is small and round; you can see the opening in above picture

“の” house evolves conventional walls into “skin,” which is organic, interactive and permeable vis-a-vis the outside world. Skin can sense and feel the outside world (you can see the modern version of “weathercock on top of the roof which works as a censor) , and can react to it. People inside are no longer disconnected. It’s connected — and it is so through IoT. (IoT for “の” house is provided by Panasonic)

no-house-outsideVisitors are experiencing various services made available through Panasonic’s IoT technology

“の” house evolves conventional walls into “skin,” which is organic, interactive and permeable vis-a-vis the outside world. Skin can sense and feel the outside world (you can see the modern version of “weathercock on top of the roof which works as a censor) , and can react to it. People inside are no longer disconnected. It’s connected — and it is so through IoT. (IoT for “の” house is provided by Panasonic)

If the walls are skin that expands towards the outside, leveraging IoT, what’s inside the body is reduced to a minimum.  Other than the essential furnishings of a bathroom, kitchen and bedroom, that are condensed and nested at/around the center of “の,” most space is left open for “experiences,” activated through the walls.  As the letter “の” suggests, there are minimum partitions inside.  Furniture is not very welcome because it blocks the walls and affects the quality of the experience.

no-furnitureKitchen, bed and office in NO Spiral House. Their minimal design is striking. 

It’s interesting. Furniture is not very welcome in “の” house.  But isn’t furniture supposed to be the central asset of a house? Isn’t it something we want to spend a lot of money on, and show off when someone comes over to visit? 

But “の” house completely flips the priority. Here, actual square footage and the physical assets stored inside have less importance. What’s valued is “experiences” that are brought through the organic/permeable skin.  The richness and enjoyment of living is completely decoupled from physical affluence.

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Above: Walls working as someone’s interactive to-do-list, a journal, a planer and a reminder.
Below: Monitoring dad’s coming home, who’s walking home from train station. The cat is on top of the house, sensing various things such as weather.

Connectedness realized by IoT also changes how you receive services.  If you can see your doctor through your wall, you no longer have to make a trip to see him/her.  If informational connectedness is linked to physical connectedness with no time lag, you could even outsource laundry and store your clean clothes until you need to wear them.

“の”house transforms your life from “race to own more” to “race to experience more.” “This is a house full of experience, not the one full of stuff,” says Nagayama. Because of that, it is made supple like the straw house the older piggy built.  The walls are thin, flexible and rollable.  It almost looks like  Mongolian ger used by nomadic people. Like seed heads of a dandelion, “の” house can be blown in the wind to settle anywhere you want.  The stability and functionalities the brick walls once provided are taken over by technology.  When we take off heavy and irreversible walls, we realize enormous freedom and flexibility.  Living can be completely different in “の” house.  Today’s technology is capable of elevating and enabling a straw house to a new level, where there is potential to make people happy other than by material affluence.

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Mongolian ger has been supporting nomadic life in Mongolian steppe.  “No” spiral house could support new type of flexible life style both in urban area and remote area thanks to its lightness and agility.