A Room of One’s Own

It might not come as a surprise for most friends and family members to learn that I am moving again.

Since uprooting from Montreal to relocate back to my home turf a few years ago, it’s become psychologically mandatory to shake the dust off my boots and start moving kit and kaboodle about once a year – you know, just when things start to get too comfortable again. At least, that is what certain parties concerned with my long-term happiness and sense of ‘settledness’ will have one believe.

Between 2005 and 2008 – perhaps the most tumultuous period of these hobo years to date – I’d hung my allegorical hat in more than 18 different places (including my barely-heated MA thesis office in chilly Aarhus). I am the first to admit that there have been circumstances in the past, reinforced by the promise of some exciting, new adventure or another, that have led me to remove, discard, pack up and shift sporadically. This particular move  (and I swear this again and again to those who have grown weary of my teenage runaway tendencies) is however, borne directly out of sheer necessity, meaning that my roommate and I are vacating the premises not because of the fact that the ongoing construction directly in front of our balcony leaves us permanently cloaked in a layer of dust or because the cockroach death toll has risen quite significantly out of unexpected meet-and-greet sessions in the night but simply because our landlord has wisely decided to unload this somewhat awkward piece of property for which we happen to be paying a pretty penny to upkeep.

Throughout the first few weeks of digesting this abrupt set of news, I found it relatively easy to keep a stiff upper lip. I mean, after all these years of toting the bindle around, hadn’t I become THE expert at living and thinking on the fly? A frequent traveller whose ‘can-do’ attitude makes me as portable and adjustable as a set of foldable Muji speakers? WRONG. After successive sleepless nights of sweatily scouring the virtual landscape for clues and contacts that will lead me to my next place of residence, my impending homelessness has become an official pain-in-the-ass. Property prices in Kuala Lumpur have apparently beanstalked their way to obscene new heights, reiterating the sad, stranded vibe one often encounters living in the Land of Stagnant Salaries and the subdistrict of No Choice.

So given that depressing line of thought, just how AMAZING is this egg-shaped mobile home constructed by 24-year old Chinese architect Dai Haifei? Situated in a courtyard in Beijing, Dai’s clever, self-sustaining solution to beating the sky-high rental housing odds has whipped both the architecture world and city officials into a frenzy; while reportedly facing a removal order from the authorities, the design has also been nominated for the 2nd Annual Chinese Architecture Media Awards.

(Image via Mother Nature Network)

Measuring just 2m high, 3m long and 2m wide, the external walls have been resourcefully constructed out of bamboo splints and sacks stuffed with sawdust and grass seeds (for insulation).The house also incorporates a solar panel complete with its own storage battery. Working within a budget of just 6400 Yuan, Dai’s creation was realized in a short time span of just two months. Although activities are pretty much limited to sleeping (it’s apparently just a place to crash come nightfall), the young architect maintains that he has taken to conducting much of his daily routine around ‘outside’ life: swimming and bathing at the local pool and frequenting restaurants and cafes when he needs to. The design was inspired by the ‘Egg of the City’ series, a project which Dai was invited to work on when he interned with the innovative Chinese firm Standard Architecture.

(Image via flavorpill)

Unfortunately, the newfound notoriety of the egg shaped mobile home most likely means that Dai won’t be able to enjoy his no-frills, zero-rent lifestyle in peace for that much longer. But at least all the media attention provoked by his ambitious and quietly subversive solution means that architects all over are more likely to be pricking up their ears and paying closer attention to the growing problem of available affordable housing in big cities, giving us regular working slobs hope that we may soon be presented with more creative and pragmatic alternatives wherein to lay our weary heads rather than the costly, thoughtlessly cobbled together options that we are so often saddled with.

In the meantime, any potential leads on reasonably priced, habitable two-bedroom gems accessible via Kuala Lumpur public transport can be forwarded directly to adelexchong [at] gmail [dot] com.

(Top image: Beijing Times)

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One thought on “A Room of One’s Own

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