1. Wikihouse: Context


Akiko Kobayashi worked in architectural practices in London, Sydney, Tokyo and Edinburgh for 15 years prior to focussing on the facilitation of community led projects in the built environment. She led in the recent WikiHouse project at Fountain Bridge in Edinburgh. She now leads an agency that helps groups of people build their homes together. She is interested in self-build, self-procurement, and helping people find their own land and finances as a collective or group. You can contact her at her studio in Codebase http://kobayashi-studio.com/

Duncan Bain is an architect and researcher who recently completed his MPhil at the University of Edinburgh. He now practices architecture within his area of interest, and runs a specialist blog on Open Source Architecture. Find out more here http://www.duncanbain.com/.  You can also read and comment on his work here http://www.duncanbain.com/research/dissertation/index.php?title=Main_Page

What is WikiHouse, and where did the idea come from?

WikiHouse started in 2011, and is project designed to provide people with a suite of online resources to help them to create their own self-build home.

It began in 2011 as a project run by an architectural practice called Archtecture00.net, and is now managed by the Wikihouse Foundation.  In the initial stage it was about exploring the use of open source ideas and developing a simple kit of parts and structural system that would support self-build communities. Since then the community of contributors to the project has grown to include architects, designers, engineers, inventors, manufacturers and builders from all over the world. They contribute their skills in design and technology, which has resulted in a more robust and sustainable range of products and tools.

How do you get involved in building a WikiHouse?

Akiko got involved with WikiHouse when she was volunteering with a community group in 2014. The group wanted to build a structure on vacant land for their meetings. A group member discovered a Ted talk by Alastair Parvin and Akiko started to explore how they might go about constructing a WikiHouse for the site at Fountainbridge in Edinburgh.

During the early stages of investigating the Fountainbridge project, Akiko found out about another project that was already on site. This on-site experience enabled her to see the technology close up, get a better understanding of what skills would be required and how to manage the build. After the Fountainbridge project she became involved in a second WikiHouse that was a replication of the same design for a different site over in Glasgow.

Why choose WikiHouse as a way to self-build?

The data, tools, and designs are all openly accessible online for free and for anyone to download. Anyone can get access to them, study them, and adapt them to suit their needs. People have the opportunity to build on the skills and experiences of a large number of architectural practitioners as well as the academics, engineers, manufacturers and builders globally.  

The ready-made design is really useful, because a lot of key decisions have already been made in terms of scale and aesthetics. In addition to that, one of the big draws is the ease of manufacture and the ease of assembly of the component parts. This makes for a low threshold for people to get involved. People do not need to be highly skilled to get hands-on with their own self-build project.

Activity: A self build project

Do you have any ideas for a stand alone self-build project?  These might be based around your own home, or it might be for a project you are involved in in your local community, e.g.:

  • A bedroom for guests
  • A workshop or studio
  • A play hut for children
  • An extra storage space
  • A community meeting space
  • A community kitchen

Have a think about something you would like to build. Who would it be for? What would you imagine it to be like?  How many people would need to use it? What size would it be? Would it need all the usual utilities like gas, electricity, and water? Where could it be located?

Write down any other requirements you might have? Try to be as specific and detailed as possible.

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