Commissioned as a guest house for artist Richard Tuttle and poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, the Turbulence House is nudging a technological revolution in off-site house design and construction. The 900-sq-ft house is a product of computer-intensive modeling, but the resulting form is paradoxically natural, looking (in spite of its aluminum facade) like a geological artifact shaped by the desert winds of its New Mexican setting.
Steven Holl, the architect behind the project, began with a seed idea from Tuttle to create something ? la Airstream mobile home. His team used virtual wire-frame models to establish a structure that appeared to be merely an extension of the natural landscape on which it would sit. The house exists in harmony with nature not only in form, but also in function. The most noticeable and unusual aspect of this approach is the wind tunnel that runs through the middle of the house, channeling the turbulent wind that inspired the house’s name, and providing a natural cooling mechanism. The walls slope earthward and the roof is sharply angled to accomodate photovoltaics. The house also has its own cistern for water collection and recycling, and is free of paint and other toxin-emitting materials.
Between the digital development and off-site fabrication of the house, only a small fraction of the overall process was done on site. A. Zahner Company, a sheet-metal fabricator in Kansas City, manufactured the thirty aluminum panels that comprise the “membrane” that encloses the house. The panels were shipped from Kanses ready for assembly on site in New Mexico. A second Turbulence House was manufactured for shipment to Schio, Italy, where it will become a pavilion for art exhibitions.
The Turbulence House is the embodiment of an ideal house of the future. It is modern, compact, and eco-friendly. It stands up to harsh weather conditions by working with, not against, the elements. The versatility and durability of the structure, both inside and out, allow it to be an optimal accomodation in nearly any location.