Solar + Design = Tiny Home on the Water
Relax & Decelerate
With the world seemingly turned upside down due to pandemic travel restrictions, the effects of global warming, conflicts, an energy crisis, and more, the time has never seemed more urgent for a refuge with a high level of self-sufficient energy and the ability to remain mobile despite mounting challenges.
Crossboundaries has re-designed a fully solar-powered motorboat with high-end, tiny-home characteristics that enable it to function as a slow-motion traveling nest.
The exterior’s resemblance to a bus on the water sparked the interest of the new owner, and with enough space to invite family and friends aboard for a getaway, she named the personal reenergizing retreat “Fàng Sōng 放松”, which translates from Chinese into “Relax”.
A transient space
Itinerant forms of architecture were first performed out of necessity and, more recently, out of willingness – the current architectural agenda debates our notions of public-private and temporary-permanent. A home that was once linked to real estate ownership now shifts to a network of commodities that can be moved to different places.
As Archigram already put it in 1964 with The Walking City: “One of the great attractions of urban living is the notion of being able to easily access all the services and goods you need. But what if those services came to you?”
A House that floats: Compact and transformable
This compact space is a perfect match for Crossboundaries because it allows for testing flexibility in micro-dwellings where each room assumes multiple programmatic roles. The appeal of water in this project is to explore the possibility of adapting, while challenging assumed and conventional norms.
With an overall length of about 15m, and a maximum width of a bit over 4m, the boat includes a set of interlinked and multi-purpose areas.
The boat’s color palette celebrates creativity, and it is highly customizable and extremely practical. Functionality improvements include a fully hidden bed with a function to close the “helmstand”, which hides the more technical equipment of the boat, achieving a calmer sense of home. Additionally, it includes a pop-up table for the kitchen area, and a hidden foldable desk included in a cabinet, providing a “work-from-home” environment.
A living machine: Technical and sustainable integration
Research in material quality and durability led the concept to a craftsmanship level. With a results-driven approach and virtual project management, some actors, including the local master carpenter, were key in the execution phase. The boat is “smart and self-powered” due to a set of innovative solutions in terms of solar energy, heating source, water, and waste management.
On sunny days, the houseboat is fully self-reliant on its solar panels, with an average range of 50km per day. A pellet stove, remotely controlled by an app, was installed to satisfy heating demands with a source of renewable energy. In the future, the owner plans to add a water purification system and a biological sewage treatment unit to upgrade the boat for long journeys.
This ‘Tiny Home on the Water’ can be conceived as a unit of the city, containing a comprehensive set of urban resources.
Ideally, in the future, people can free themselves from too many possessions and embrace denser, high quality spaces that enable more flexible ways of life.
Other images can be seen in the gallery down below
Location/mooring: Germany, Berlin, Stößensee
Client: Marianne Friese, Berlin
Gross area: 62 sqm
Design period: January 2020 – October 2020
Construction period: October 2020 – February 2022
Completion time: March 2022
Architect: Crossboundaries, Beijing
Partners in charge: Binke Lenhardt, Hao Dong
Design team: Marijana Simic, Silvia Campi, YU Hongyu, YU Zhaoxiong
Collaborators and co-creators: Brettmen, Berlin – Anselm Breig and chief carpenter Malte Spiess
Consultant, technical installations: Benedikt Riepe, Berlin
Consultant, bathroom installations, paintwork: Mirko Kriebel, Berlin
Consulting and installation pellet stove: Woitha, Berlin – Oliver Schwarzer
Upholstery: Krebes, Berlin
Glass film printing and installation: Werberitter, Berlin
Photographer & Video clips: Johanna Link, Munich
Video creation: Elena Gamez Miguelez
Crossboundaries contributes to a vital built environment through architecture, environmental design, and urban regeneration. The studio creates enduring architecture that often deals with remarkable technical processes, yet always has a pleasant material touch and human atmosphere.
Organized as an international partnership, members of the Crossboundaries team originate from and were trained in different parts of the world. The firm’s first office was founded in Beijing, China in 2005 by Binke Lenhardt and DONG Hao. Later, in 2012, a partner office was established in Frankfurt, Germany by Binke Lenhardt and Antje Voigt.
After receiving their Masters Degrees in Architecture from Pratt Institute, Binke Lenhardt and DONG Hao worked in New York for several years before making their home in China. In Beijing, they both started off at the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design (BIAD) before founding Crossboundaries. Today, they frequently lecture and teach at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), as well as at Tsinghua University.
From urban scale architecture to graphic design, teaching, programming, and event creation, Crossboundaries practices by name, crossing boundaries into activities and dialogues in the broad field of design and architecture. Continually thinking and doing, the studio is engaging, evolving, and adapting.
Crossboundaries has completed a wide range of small-scale interior designs and architectural projects of larger size. The firm’s project portfolio includes Aimer’s Lingerie Factory, several Beida High Schools, Family Box, Soyoo Joyful Growth Center, kindergartens in rural areas, showrooms, and offices in collaboration with Siemens and BMW.
The firm also engages in theoretical research projects such as China House Vision, exhibited at the 15th International Architecture La Biennale di Venezia, as well as in Beijing in 2018. Crossboundaries is also actively participating in the current discourse on architecture in China.