The ONU House module is a readily transportable box incorporating the elements of an entire house and is relatively lightweight while easily oriented according to the prevailing site conditions. Moreover, once in position and with no foundation preparation, it commences unfolding over a period of a few minutes with the net result - a functional house up to three times the volume of the original box. The technology used in the ONU house is based on a “folding technique” which satisfies the concept of ‘flexibility’. We are able to create a system of counterbalanced foldable levers that are designed to mechanically complement each other while offering the house characteristics such as mobility, speed, ease of construction and reliability. The levers are designed to operate manually by utilizing gravity as the main driving force while adapting a system of action and reaction forces.
By identifying the irregular distribution of houses and developments that are permanent and nonflexible, arguably the most prominent problem in the cities of the Middle East, the multidisciplinary team at Al Ghurair University have conceptualized the ONU House. The ONU or "Origami Nomadic Urban House", inspired by the Japanese technique of folding paper, aims at creating living spaces for contemporary living. As the UAE economy continues to expand, the demand for available, affordable and flexible urban living options, particularly for the young professional generation, is compelling. Such flexibility needs to incorporate the best of sustainability design principles with new forms of housing.
It incorporates retractable elements that can easily be adjusted by adapting 19th century engineering techniques, which can vary depending on the needs of its occupants. This approach aims at creating mobile and self-deploying homes that can easily be incorporated within various community types (e.g. disaster relief, temporary workers, young families, etc.).
The inspiration to focus on movable and self-deploying architecture came from considering the homeless sector of society. The homeless, after all, are not the only category of urban nomads, e.g. business people who spend much of their time waiting at airports and other transport hubs are urban nomads. Street vendors in the traditional cities of North Africa, commuters in new cities like Dubai, or ‘urban campers’ who attempt to experience cities all over the world in a new way. All these groups share one main characteristic: their lifestyles are not concentrated within one location. They enjoy transiting, always seem to be on the road, and consequently need new concepts in order to live, rest and work.
The ONU House can be considered a tent of the future. With smart technologies and systems, the house is designed to meet the needs of a growing community. Its mobility will attract contemporary youth to become home owners, despite the current economic downturn, and will reflect their movement and growth within society. Its inherent modularity allows for the possibility of stacking either vertically or horizontally to form new typologies of communities and (small) skyscrapers. Most importantly it would allow homeowners to take their homes with them as they transit from one locality to another.