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At Salone del Mobile 2017, the New York architects face tomorrow's challenge of urban living using MINI's core principle: creative use of space.
What's the difference between an artist and an architect? According to MINI collaborators SO – IL, it's simple: artists can use their work to raise questions, whereas architects have to provide answers.
The Brooklyn based architects' latest project is an installation made together with MINI LIVING for Salone del Mobile 2017 in Milan. It's a communal home and living space for three people, but here is where its resemblance to any other house or apartment you've seen before ends. It's not made of concrete, brick, or timber, but of a piece of tough, porous fabric stretched across simple metal scaffolding. This protects you from the elements, while simultaneously purifying the air you breathe and allowing light to filter into your living space. The same material divides the interior into levels and rooms, giving you privacy where you need it, and letting the outside in when you don't. The roof includes a communal garden and a rainwater collection system that makes the home largely self-sufficient, and also provides a space for you to think and relax. It's practical and beautiful. But if this is an 'answer', what is the question?
CLARITY IN THE WORK AND CLARITY OF THOUGHT.
MINI and SO – IL are tackling a problem you've no doubt thought about yourself. That is, given how crowded our cities are becoming, and how much we're having to compete for their space and resources, how can we improve the quality of urban life? And furthermore, how can we do this without resorting to last century's worn-out solutions? This isn't just a matter of changing fashion. High-rises and expanding suburbs have been, to put it mildly, a mixed blessing. Tower blocks and urban sprawl may have improved on the 19th century slum, but they did so at the cost of the environment and the community, leaving pollution and isolation in their wake. 'I think some of these ideas were related to a more stable style of living, which may not reflect today's reality', explained SO – IL principal Ilias Papageorgiou. 'People move more, there's more mobility, so there's been a need to rethink some of these models'. For MINI, the challenge ahead consists of finding a solution to the problem of urban living that is community-minded, energy-conscious and sensitive to the existing environment, both built and natural, while still offering you privacy and comfort. In SO – IL, MINI has found the perfect collaborators. 'In all of our projects, I think the idea of relationships, either between people or between people and their environments, has been important', explains Papageorgiou.
HOW CAN WE IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF URBAN LIFE?
MINI's collaboration with SO – IL responds to the challenges posed by urban life by making efficient use of the resources air, water and light. The structure collects rainwater for washing and drinking, while its unique elastic skin simultaneously purifies the air and amplifies natural light, creating subtly shifting effects through the various rooms over the course of a day. The installation is nestled into a small space between two buildings for an extremely compact physical footprint. And while it offers all the privacy you'd need, the house also allows for communal rather than private living, and an awareness of the outside world you wouldn't get in a normal house or apartment. 'You're always aware of the other people or objects that are in the structure', says Papageorgiou, 'so there's always this idea of connection'. Indeed, this sense of connection and common responsibility is key to the whole project. SO – IL believes the installation's way of letting the outside in will subtly amplify our awareness of our environment, as surely as the walls of a brick house or concrete apartment building allow us to forget it. 'We believe', write the architects, 'it is impossible to care for our planet if we don't experience it.'
Florian Idenburg, Jing Liu, Ilias Papageorgiou, Ian Olivier, Isabel Sarasa, Álvaro Gómez-Sellés, Jason Houssein