“Hasn’t this problem already been solved?” you may be wondering. It’s true: mobile homes in the contemporary form of the building have been around since 1956, enabling their inhabitants to travel to new sites and set up house. However, with mobile homes, land ownership to some degree is still a requirement, and they can’t be taken just anywhere. N55 is clear about this key difference with Walking House; in fact, Walking House’s challenging of typical views of land ownership is the reason for its conception.
Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridgeshire commissioned the project to help a declining nomadic population that was being relegated to the fringes of the community. The Romani people, as nomads, had been strongly integrated into the settled culture but were losing their place in the society as they too began to remain in one place. N55 designed the Walking House based on Romani horse carriages from the 18th century with spare interiors and a compact structure. Walking House’s combination of Romani tradition and contemporary design aims to marry the the nomadic and settled cultures in a seamless way. According to N55, its ease of mobility suggests that “all land should be accessible for all persons.”
Walking House is also a sustainable unit. It features solar panels, micro windmills, rainwater collection devices, solar-heated hot water and can even be equipped with a greenhouse for growing food. Though the traditional unit can only house up to four people, the modules can be combined to form Walking Villages.
Though I believe that land stewardship versus land ownership is a valuable practice, I think it will be challenging to convert our materialistic, accumulation- and specific site-based cultures to simpler, mobile societies. Many people have a desire to feel “settled” and land ownership helps develop personal identity and provide a sense of security. However, it also shuts out certain people and leads us to believe that we have a right to compartmentalize the earth as we see fit. What are your thoughts? Is land ownership vital to our culture? Do you see an alternative solution?