Charged with finding an innovative material detail to model, draw, and learn from for Material Strategies, I looked to the Sliding House by dRMM. I am interested in rethinking single-family home design and this home was a good precedent for re-imagining the ways people could live. Sliding House, located in Suffolk, UK, does just what its name suggests – it slides. The owner desired a self-built retirement home where he could grow food and enjoy the landscape. Both architect and owner agreed to push the limits.
The house is, for the most part, built using typical construction strategies, materials, and even form having a 45-degree roof pitch. This precedent is less an innovation in material detail then, but more about a technological detail. The second envelope of the house attaches to sets of wheels and motors integrated within the wall thickness, and the whole construction of this second envelope is situated on rail tracks. The motorized envelope slides to adjust the relationship one has on the inside with the exterior – in 6 minutes the “open” house can close. Though the ability to adjust the home’s environment, views, and sun/heat exposure is not achieved by the most high tech application of materials or technology, relative to some of the other technologies we have discovered, there is something to say about this seemingly simplistic strategy for change – especially for a single-family home.
*The above images illustrate the simplicity of using common construction practices, but adding a “surprise” in order to make the house move.
The remaining question for me then, is concerning the longevity of the system. With any system, moving parts or not, break down and deterioration occurs. What is the maintenance required for a system such as the sliding house? Also, what is the cost of failure if the system does break down? Do the benefits of variable environments outweigh the risks? I would like to think that the risks in ideas like this can be appreciated and sought after in order to make more interesting places to live.
I’m left with a feeling of excitement in studying this precedent for the mere fact that I believe it achieves something that creators and designers all want to achieve and that is to challenge what we know and how we think about the world in which we live.