As our world becomes increasingly uncertain and we’re driven to find new ways of living, are prefabricated homes in our future? Fabio Vignolo and Francesca Turnaturi, two architects from Turin, think so.
The founders of Make Yourself A Home, a start-up that provides innovative construction systems, Fabio and Francesca believe prefabricated wooden structures can serve as a blank canvas to build a better future. These affordable, linear structures are easy to assemble, designed to be flexible and made with eco-sustainable materials, making them an appealing investment for 21st century living.
“There are a lot of macroeconomic and social factors that are driving an interest in prefab homes. First off, the world is constantly changing, so we need to be quick to adapt,” says Fabio. “And work has become more mobile, so we’re moving more than ever. The new generation isn’t eager to invest in real estate because it’s a long-term expense with no guarantees. That’s why with Make Yourself A Home, we’ve sought to find living solutions for our ever-changing needs.”
The young team works across numerous fields, from building affordable housing units and short-term living shelters after emergencies, to designing units for experiential tourism as well. Their system “Immerso” draws on the concept of the albergo diffuso, or diffused hospitality, by setting up structures that can be used for glamping, hosting outdoor yoga classes or wine tastings directly in the vineyards. Built with plywood panels and plexiglass roofs, these structures are integrated with the landscape, providing visitors with an immersive experience.
Their latest product is the Ciabot 2.0 which they designed specifically for The Langhe wine region of Piedmont. Historically, a ciabot was a small brick farmhouse set amongst the vineyards which housed materials and functioned as a shelter for workers. With the mechanization of agriculture, the ciabots were abandoned but can’t be removed from the fields because they are historic structures within a UNESCO-protected area.
“We wanted to find a creative way to “recuperate” these abandoned units and make them useful again, so we created Ciabot 2.0 – a kind of transparent, wooden “pod” that allows guests to engage with their surroundings,” says Fabio. Oddero and Michele Chiarlo, two notable producers of Barolo in the region, have ordered units for their vineyards and the architects hope the format can be replicated across Italy. “You can use these in vineyards, olive groves, citrus plantations to help guests experience your product or service to 360-degrees.”
The prefab structures are easy to assemble, multi-functional, sustainable and reversible – ensuring no negative impact on the environment. “You can order a unit, set it up for a season, and remove it when necessary. And if you develop a marketing plan around the structure, you can create a whole new range of services to offer your guests.” With the rise in immersive tourism, there is lots of room for creativity – from a glamping experience to bespoke photographic experiences, cooking classes and other on-demand activities that take place within its four walls. “And during this moment when we’re particularly aware about the importance of social distancing, the prefab homes guarantee privacy, isolation and a natural experience outside of our traditional homes,” he says.
An additional benefit is the units are accessible: both in economic terms and know-how. “Unlike artisanal products that are unique, our process is industrialized. This means we can lower the cost of production and avoid surprises. We want to involve people in developing their business, or even building their own wooden home, so every piece is a perfect fit” he says.
The homes are sturdy, made with transparent rigid sheets of plexiglass and reinforced birch plywood, and are significantly cheaper (and quicker) to construct than tradition homes. They’re also versatile: the panels are easy to assemble and break apart, meaning a two-person home can easily become a family home by adding extra rooms. Then, when you need to downsize, you can deconstruct your space by removing the additional pieces and sell them to someone else.
Their newest units include a floating “Diamond”, an Alpine Hut and a Nest Box. To accommodate longer-term living arrangements, the homes can also be connected to develop communities that share collective gardens and common areas. “Our prefab homes and products are built to be versatile so the possibilities to create functional structures are endless,” says Fabio.