Cellophane House

Cellophane House is a five-story, off-site fabricated dwelling made of transparent, recyclable materials commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art for the 2008 exhibition Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. It was on display for three months on a New York City lot adjacent to the Museum, drawing over 500,000 visitors. The house is comprised of integrated component assemblies"or chunks"manufactured off-site over the course of thirteen weeks and assembled on-site in just sixteen days. A parametric model was used to achieve the high precision required for off-site fabrication and to eliminate the need for shop drawings. Fabricated virtually with Building Information Modeling (BIM), the geometric and dimensional certainty of the virtual model allows parts to be machined and assembled to the required tolerances. It yields more efficient structural and mechanical coordination, greater management of parts and schedules for procurement, a clearer approach to assembly sequencing, and a measure of control over fabrication and construction. The virtual model is the sole source of information from which all details, schedules, part lists and fabrication drawings are derived. The structure is an extruded aluminum frame to which all other built elements such as floors and ceilings, stairs, bathrooms, and mechanical rooms are attached with reversible connections, enabling all energy embodied in the materials to be preserved through the rapid disassembly and recovery of components for reassembly. The aluminum structural framing is bolted, rather than welded, allowing it to be taken apart as easily as it is assembled. Moreover, this frame allows any of the walls, floors, structure, or envelope to be replaced at any time, without invasive modifications. The transparent and translucent walls, floors, ceilings, roof and envelope exploit the sun as the primary source of illumination and energy. The building is enclosed with SmartWrapâ„¢, a multi-layer PET building envelope integrated with photovoltaic cells. A layer of film on the interior allows daylight to enter and diffuse throughout the living spaces, while providing greater insulation than any glass unit. A channel between the layers harnesses heat in the winter, and displaces it in the summer. At night, the house is illuminated with light-emitting diodes (LED). Chosen for its low-voltage and energy efficiency, LED generates very little heat, minimizing the need for cooling; and automatic sensors switch the lights on only when needed to limit wasted energy. The house is mass-customizable and through simple modifications, it can adapt to a range of climatic factors, solar orientations, slopes and adjacencies. Since all structural loads are carried by the external frame elements, it is also simple to rearrange interior floor plans. A pair of bedrooms, for instance, can be created in place of the study and garden, should a family require the extra space. A range of material options also allows the house to be customized to the varying needs, tastes and budgets of consumers. Someone desiring more privacy and a lower cost might choose a quite different package of materials. Cement-board might replace the transparent envelope, rendering the building as solid and dense rather than light and ephemeral. Users are encouraged to alter the array of components and layouts as they see fit. Regardless of the changes that are made, the method of fabrication remains the same. By creating a system into which pre-existing materials can be simply and cleanly inserted, the Cellophane House drastically reduces the number of consultants needed to build a house. Practically every element of the house is readily available through a national network of open-sourced vendors, and can be assembled almost anywhere at any time. The off-site fabricator simply orders the frame and connections, and the materials for walls and floors, and the house is ready to assemble. Due to the nature of the joints, there are no specialized tools or facilities required, so the number of eligible fabricators is virtually limitless. Cellophane House was designed for disassembly. After the exhibition, all connections were removed and the layers un-stacked, and the housing components stored in dry vans for future assembly at a new location.


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Building Activity

  • Irma Gilbert
    Irma Gilbert updated
    about 4 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings added a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • added a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • Teodora Todorova
    Teodora Todorova updated
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com