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Cubic Igloo @PopLab. Cambridge, MA, 2015

Cubic Igloo has been developed as a prototype for The Original Room Series launched by the POPlab, Ensamble Studio’s research laboratory at MIT, to reflect on the essence of habitation and the opportunities of prefabrication to optimize construction time, cost, and design quality. It is meant to be an essential space tailored at the scale of the human body that brings together Technology and Art to provide an intense architectural experience.


The project is part of the research the office has been developing for some years on foam construction technologies, exploring spatial, technical and formal qualities. This new prototype proposes a unitary space that condenses all the domestic functions in a compressed volume of air. A spiral of stepped platforms describes an ascending itinerary that goes from the public -the entrance- to the private –the sleeping area- resolving in between a series of planes that can be occupied in different ways throughout the day optimizing the use of space.


Structure, enclosure and even furniture are all resolved by a continuous mass built with stacked EPS blocks. The dimension and lightness of the blocks, 98% air, allow for quick construction using non-specialized workforce and no auxiliary machinery. Following Egyptian construction methods, the whole volume of about 5 x 5 x 5 m3 can be erected using the material itself as scaffolding and working platform to place even the higher blocks. The prototype will stand on the laboratory’s outdoor space and will be studied for some time to analyze its structural, waterproofing and fire resistance, testing different coatings that can improve its performance, and will be after disassembled in six modules to be transported to its final destination.


From outside it looks like an abstract stone with no appearance of holding a space inside, no recognizable doors or windows reveal its architectural nature. From inside, a continuous space is excavated from the mass; a space that is protected and introverted, thermally super efficient and easily reconfigurable through the manipulation of its lightweight components. This enigmatic room, massive but light, soft and warm, compact but spacious proposes an Architecture Poem, open for interpretation.

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