HOUSE 2: Students build a house by hand
First-year architecture students have unveiled their vision of the house of the future: HOUSE 2. Entirely designed and constructed by the students, this wooden home will be open to passers-by in Zurich from 30 May to 15 June – in a premiere for EPFL.
This unusual project – a wooden house fully designed and built by first-year architecture students – was launched in 2016 by architect and EPFL professor Dieter Dietz. Professor Dietz pushes the budding architects to stretch their imagination to the limits, while meeting the standards and constraints related to this type of building.
HOUSE 2 follows on the heels of HOUSE 1. For this second round of the project, Dietz – who also heads EPFL’s ALICE laboratory – divided his students into groups of 15 and asked them to design the dozen or so rooms in the house. The catch this year was that all the wooden pieces had to fit together into a container. This is because the project is headed for Zurich: HOUSE 2 will be on display in the western part of the city, under a railway bridge near the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), from 30 May to 15 June. This marks an unprecedented collaboration between the city and EPFL; the wooden home will be open to the public throughout the exhibition.
Facing a critical evaluation
The student’s dozen projects – ranging from a kitchen and tea bar to an artistic projection room, urban training turret, high-tech conference room, and rest area – have just passed their critical evaluation. Dietz and his team called on Rémy Meylan, an engineer specialized in wood construction, to carry out the assessment.
Meylan had the difficult task of reminding the students who came up with the most daring designs of certain construction standards and technical constraints.
Meanwhile, Dietz used the evaluation to encourage the students to improve their designs, pointing out their strengths but also their weaknesses and shortcomings. “You should see the constraints you face as opportunities, not problems,” Dietz said as his class was faced with a tricky structural problem related to building a staircase. The students set up 1:10 and 1:5 wooden models in the Rolex Forum to help them visualize the magnitude of the house, which will be some 50 meters long, and the various challenges they will need to overcome.
An educational project
Like HOUSE 1, HOUSE 2 is above all an educational project. It requires students to first work in a group on one part of the house, then to collaborate with neighboring groups to ensure feasibility and coherence. The future architects also link theory to practice, acquiring first-hand experience by actually building the structure themselves. Finally, their projects need to account for real-world conditions, including the experience of passersby.
HOUSE 2 will be partly pre-assembled on the EPFL campus between mid-April and mid-May. After the June exhibition in Zurich, the house could make a showing in Lausanne – a partnership for a summer exhibition is in the works.