Monday, May 22, 2017

Building Solutions

Today, the majority of our learning took place in a hostel, in an inspiring space known as the Cuckoo house.

Today, the majority of our learning took place in a hostel. The space, known as the Cuckoo house, is home to people from all walks and stages of life. It's founders aimed to create an environment where young people could go to fail—something we avoid almost to our detriment. It is a judgement-free zone that stimulates creativity and encourages learning. We saw walls lined with messages of love and appreciation. We saw beautiful murals on the building both inside and out. We met a dog named Kibo (Hope in Japanese) being rehabilitated after he was found injured on the street.

We heard a melody composed of laughter and Ukulele. We felt positivity and imagination oozing out of the inhabitants there. I think anyone could learn so much by just being in the building.

Our first speaker of the day was Mr. Sampath Reddy, a man educated in aerospace engineering who has found his passion for solving the housing crisis in India after finding success in an MIT design contest known as Kumbhathon. He was inspired by Acara and then the tiny house movement to seriously pursue his then-hobby of designing compact spaces. Mr. Reddy's concepts fascinated me because of their effectiveness and accessibility. In an exercise, he provided us with 3ft beams and with little guidance, had us construct a tiny house. In less than 15 minutes, all of us had built our own 9sq.ft boxes. He explained that all we would need to create the frame of a 64 sq.ft of a habitable house is to do the exact same thing with 8ft beams. He next presented us with all the different possibilities for construction using this framework and how it could be implemented by regular people to erect all kinds of structures using readily available tools and materials.


Two more speakers that have been working on similar challenges came up after. One offered solutions for effectively designing the interiors of the homes such that all the space can be maximized for the inhabitants. The other spoke about the non-profit construction of houses for slum populations. It was eye-opening to learn that some of the toughest challenges that these entrepreneurs faced were not in fields of engineering or design, instead they were deeply-rooted in bureaucracy and sociology.

Long after the presentations were over, discussions erupted over the possibility of applying what we had seen to our own University of Minnesota experience. It is hard to find anyone at the U that is really satisfied with the housing options available, so among ourselves, we explored ideas of maximizing dorm space and developing individualized housing that is both close to the University and affordable.