For Vanke’s inaugural design event that explores a pressing architectural theme each year, People’s Architecture Office was invited by the real estate developer to tackle the ‘future of housing’ through an experimental built work. Installed at Vanke’s headquarters in Shenzhen the Plugin Tower addresses the insecurity of private home ownership in a country where land is held exclusively by the government and the construction of private homes is reserved for the very wealthy.
The Plugin Tower curtails the investment necessary for building a home since it excludes the risk of losing one’s property: residents can pack up their homes and bring it with them if they are ever forced to relocate. Classified as a temporary structure, the Plugin Tower does not require an underground foundation, thereby circumventing the strict planning approval for permanent structures and easing the requirements for building a private house. A multistory prefab system that is infinitely expandable, the Metabolist-inspired Plugin Tower is comprised of a steel space frame, a kit of parts that can be assembled in endless variations. Empty bays within the frame are plugged with living units, altered and unplugged when necessary.
Units are made with PAO’s proprietary Plugin Panel system, modules that incorporate insulation, wiring, plumbing, interior and exterior finishes into one molded part. Panels are attached with integrated locks, easily installed by a couple of unskilled people with just a hex wrench. Unlike with shipping containers, Plugin Panels allow living spaces to be added without heavy machinery, and does not restrict their layouts to the shape of a box. Suggesting the instability of the state of housing in China, the ‘future of housing’ proposed by People’s Architecture Office is a flexible design that adapts to changing needs and fluctuating conditions.