MiSo*, the University of Michigan’s entry to the United States Department of Energy sponsored Solar Decathlon 2005. As faculty advisor I led a group of students, (primarily graduate architecture) in the final design and construction of a structure which was deliberately interrogative and confrontational of unreflective popular assumptions about style, sustainability and the American house.
My design mandate to the students was to create a hundred year house. Our consequent design resembled the futuristic designs of early modernism. The design’s timelessness trades on an aesthetic deliberately never quite in or out of fashion. Styled as a consumer product to appeal to what market strategists call “early adoption consumers,” we chose aluminum for its workability, durability, and low maintenance as well as for its historical association with the American entrepreneurial spirit. Taking a cue from Michigan’s long association with automobile production, we collaborated with Ed Scutchfied, a metal shaper who typically builds concept cars for the auto industry and show car enthusiasts. Our building is based on an automobile monocoque with the aluminum skin and structure integrated for economy in material and for facility in hypothetical line production.
Designed as a manufacturing prototype, the eight hundred square foot MiSo* house immediately answered the Solar Decathlon contest rules for maximum size, but remains responsive to consumers through its adaptable nature, based on reconfiguration or inclusion of additional modules. Housed on separate trailers, the building modules unbolt and can be driven on the highway without special permits or licenses. In this way we answered our own charge for an economic and responsible design.