OMD's Portable Architecture
Siegal's work grows largely out of her life experiences. Motion was a theme in her family in the passionate paintings of her artist father, in the dance careers of both brothers and she traveled widely. In these sojourns she was struck by the culture of mobility in the nomadic tribes of Southeast Asia. And then, while living in Israel, the curious sight of a portable gas station, with the ability fold up and move according to the economic and political climate, expanded her thoughts on the boundaries of mobility.
"We no longer have to stay in one place," says Siegal in reference to her concept of "new nomadism." She herself shuttles between her Los Angeles office and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she has a fellowship to research "smart" materials. "I'm constantly finding new places in L.A. and Cambridge and engaging new concepts of mobility."
The "portable house" was one of the first manifestations of her concept of new nomadism. It was designed to provide alternatives for those who have disposable income but not enough capital to enter the standard housing market. Siegal's portable house has expandable and contractible spaces and varying degrees of transparency in materials with the intention of providing a richness of experience in a simple form.
Her portable house has a central kitchen/bath core with sleeping areas to one side and an expandable living area on the other. As climatic conditions change, the house can be reoriented to take advantage of sun and natural ventilation. Units can be grouped to form larger social entities and common spaces. Or multiple units can be connected to create a larger space for a family.
The portable house "a mass-customized residential building unit" also incorporates several sustainable strategies and materials. It has a natural ventilation periscope, advanced plastic-foam insulation, and floors of plyboo, a laminated bamboo product.
Siegal sees such buildings that are mobile and "rest lightly on the land" as an alternative to urban sprawl. One of her office's most recent projects is Ecoville an artist-in- residence community near the heart of downtown Los Angeles.
In Ecoville, portable houses are stacked in a variety of configurations. Sustainable strategies include drought-resistant plants, common gardens, and green building materials.
Fold Out Plug In Boot Up
Another aspect of Siegal's philosophy is using mobility and current technology to bring services to geographically dispersed people. Recalling the portable gas station, she sees mobile services as a new approach to urban infrastructure.
In her iMobile project, OMD designed a mobile computer station "a roving port for accessing global communication networks." The unfolding iMobile could make the latest technology available to groups with limited mobility, such as the elderly, or with limited access to technology, such as school children.
Central to the experimental nature of her work have been the design/ build studios she leads at Woodbury University in Los Angeles. After she teaches her students how to weld, they tackle the most elemental components of mobile culture such as the ubiquitous storage container.
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