Modular California Roll House Designed To Beat Desert Heat

As people continue to flock to the desert Southwest, designers have looked everywhere for ways to adapt the archetypal single-family home to the extremes of the arid climate. Korean firm Violent Volumes found ironic inspiration from the ocean in its recent idea to wrap the home environment in a protective shroud and use passive techniques to maintain a comfortable temperature inside.

Like a giant piece of space sushi, the California Roll house concept from architect Christopher Kim looks as if it were transported from a restaurant in another galaxy. But rather than just a clever piece of sci-fi fantasy, the concept is grounded in the real world, with energy-efficient materials and a modular design for easy construction.

Image by Christopher Daniel via Violent Volumes

Image by Christopher Daniel via Violent Volumes

The curlicue house begins and ends with its exterior frame, which begins as a flat courtyard surface, then bends upward and then curves over on itself, forming the walls, roof and second floor in one continuous sheet. The house uses a carbon-fiber truss for support and is clad in uniform fiber-reinforced plastic panels coated with a cool-roof reflective surface to help repel the unrelenting sun.

The modular interior. Image by Christopher Daniel via Violent Volumes.

The modular interior. Image by Christopher Daniel via Violent Volumes.

Each element of the prefab house concept, the designers say, is modular in nature to maximize mobility and to facilitate rapid assembly and disassembly as needed. The open floor plan of the interior spaces can be custom designed to fit the needs of the tenants, with some living areas cordoned off by interior curtains for privacy.

Skylights are placed in various spots around the cantilevered carbon-fiber shell. Image by Christopher Daniel via Violent Volumes.

Skylights are placed in various spots around the cantilevered carbon-fiber shell. Image by Christopher Daniel via Violent Volumes.

At either end of the house, floor-to-ceiling transparent walls use smart window technology to change their opacity with the touch of a button, depending on the heat load during the course of the day. The outer shell is also pierced in various places with skylights to bring natural daylight to the interior.

Steps lead to a hydraulic doorway. Image by Christopher Daniel via Violent Volumes.

Steps lead to a hydraulic doorway. Image by Christopher Daniel via Violent Volumes.

Adding to the spaceship aesthetic, the design includes a hydraulic-powered front door that opens vertically from the inward-slanting side wall. One piece of the door slides up the outer wall while the bottom half folds down, acting as a ramp to allow access to the ground floor. We pray the space-age inhabitants come in peace.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.ware SARAH WARE

      Love this. I want to pin these images!

    • http://twitter.com/a2green Katy Hollbacher

      It might stay cool during the day, but what about those chilly desert nights? Is there any insulation embedded in those thin fiber-reinforced plastic panels? Hmmm.