Monday, November 24, 2008

Housing Bubble

Before he had even obtained his diploma Pascal Häusermann had designed his first house. He was twenty years old and immediately discovered his particular form of expression: the bubble. His father was his first backer, investing a modest 5000 Swiss francs for his first egg-house. Pascal scrawled out a sphere. He first conceived of an orb in wood and then with a metal armature. Christophe Montaucieux: ''It sufficed to use the most economical shape in nature, the sphere, in order to obtain the most expensive house.'' The coming bubble house was discussed in magazines and gossiped about throughout the region. A Time Magazine article from 1967 noted that visitors compared the houses to, ''a flying saucer, a giant clam or a monstrous white mushroom.''

The Häusermann sphere is, essentially, modular architecture, which grows by aggregations and accumulations, freely taking from its suroundings. It is designed to evolve. Häusermann once asked: ''Why adapt individuals to architecture when it is easier to adapt architecture to the individual?''

From the end of the 1950s, Häusermann and a handful of allies, including Chanéac and Ionel Schein, assembled coccoons and bubbles- restaraunts, a school and numerous houses throughout France and Switzerland. Their mottos extreme economy in general, ability of the habitat to evolve, and mobility. With Patrick Le Merdy, he launched a line of ''Domobiles''. Made of frothy polyurethane, they could be transported by truck. The cost, however, was prohibitive and they weren't exactly built to last. The authorization to construct them never arrived. Häusermann returned to traditional architecture, restoring the Clarté building, ironically enough with Le Courbusier, the master of collectivist architecture.

Jump ahead to 2005, and Pascal, now a musician and pilot as well as an architect, returns to constructing egg-buildings in India. This time, however, they are built to last- out of steel.

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