Morgana Matus

Sea Creatures and Dinosaurs Inspire a Virtually Indestructible Home in Berkeley, California

by , 06/17/13

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People who live in Berkeley, California are certainly used to seeing some strange things on the streets of their city. But those who live in the neighborhood near 2747 Matthews Street may point out a structure that’s a little odd to even the most weathered of residents. Nicknamed “The Fish House” by locals, the Tsui House built by architect Eugene Tsui is touted by its creator as the one of the world’s safest dwellings. The design is based upon a small and segmented water creature known as a tardigrade, and also features a few architectural elements inspired by dinosaur physiology.


eugene tsui, tsui house, tardigrade, berkeley, california, indestructible, fish house

The Tsui House features a number of enlightened construction elements that allow it to be disaster-proof, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly. Built for only $250,000 the 220 square-meter house is made from cement blocks, recycled Styrofoam, reinforced steel, and concrete. Its outer walls are formed with marine fiberglass, stucco, structural plaster, non-toxic waterproofing, and recycled wood. A living room, conversation area, kitchen, laundry room, three bathrooms, three bedrooms, study room, and antique display room are all enclosed within the body of the house that takes its form from the tardigrade, or “water bear”. All shelving is placed into the walls to prevent damage during earthquakes.

The overall oval plan sports a parabolic top supported by an oval reinforced foundation. A series of perforated drain pipes in between the roof and floor dispel any accumulated water to alleviate fluid built up by storms or floods. The entire house is partially buried 1.5 meters into the ground. Its Rastra block walls can withstand pests, fire, water, and reduces sound by about to 50 decibels. Its makeup is similar to the skeleton of the cholla cactus. The upper part of the home consists of a series of parabolic arches connected by wood sheathing and sprayed with concrete to make a continuous shell. The interior consists of three deepening levels at the ground floor and its core holds a spiral ramp with steel cables that radiate from a skylight placed in the roof.

Without the need for air conditioning, the Tsui House is able to naturally remain cool in the summer and warm in winter. A five meter diameter circular window faces south and acts as a magnifier for heat in the cold months. All except for three windows are able to be opened, and “nostril” windows can be adjusted to allow fresh air without letting bugs into the home. A sun-ray exterior motif on the upper part of the building takes its form from the bone and capillary biology of the Dimetrodon and Stegosaurus dinosaurs. Appearing like spiny fins, water in black subsurface solar is heated during the day and maintains stored radiant heat at night that extends throughout the walls. ts aerodynamic shape makes it difficult for fire to adhere to its exterior, and its design is able to withstand earthquakes.

Taking advantage the heartiest of creatures found in nature, the Tsui House stands as an elegant tribute to the power of biomimicry. Who better to look to for longevity than to animals that have survived for millions of years?

+ Eugene Tsui

Via Discovery News

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