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Element House

Element House was designed by Hilary Sample and Michael Meredith of New York–based MOS Architects and is uniquely suited to its off-the-grid location in New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert. The homes would be completely “off the grid,” operating independently of traditional utility services. The pre-fabricated modules, limited to a footprint of 1500 square feet maximum, would follow strict LEED design criteria.

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© Florian Holzherr

“The goal of the Element House is to operate independent of public utility services and support off-the-grid living situations. The mathematical series applied to the design explores recombinatory growth. Each elemental is comprised of a rectangular unit with a triangular roof, and an occasional “chimney,” which is not a fireplace but a well that allows light to flood the interior of the home. Despite coming in a variety of basic styles, the modules can be attached to allow for configurations of differing shapes or sizes – from single-family homes to large housing complexes.”

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© Florian Holzherr


Element House (EH) is a SIPS modular home designed with the goal to operate independent of public utility services by integrating passive systems that allow for e-generation and off-the-grid living opportunities in virtually any location.

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© Florian Holzherr

The Element House shape is derived from the Fibonacci sequence, which is a describer of developmental patterns in living organisms. This mathematical series was applied in order to explore the idea of recombinatory growth in building forms and the economics of spatial compartmentalization.

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© Florian Holzherr

Working with the visionary team of Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample of MOS architects, we have manifested this concept into reality. The EH prototype, with a 1543sf footprint is funded and built by the Museum of Outdoor Arts. It is currently near compleation at Star Axis in New Mexico.

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© Florian Holzherr

The Element House prototype is scheduled to open to vistiors in spring of 2014 at Star Axis. The collaborators are working hard on feasibility research for development and potential commercial production.

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© Florian Holzherr

Design Features:

  • Green Construction: Built using state of the art SIPS technology for increased energy efficiency, reduced construction waste, and rapid construction.
  • Energy Efficiency: Passive solar design for heating and cooling. innovative technologies including LED lighting and recycled water systems designed for minimum consumption of resources.
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© Florian Holzherr

  • Modularity: Allows for rapid design adaptability and expansion possibilies. Off site panel fabrication allows for precision and superior quality.
  • Location Adaptable: Minimal excavation required for placement in many different locations and environments.
  • Aesthetics: Sculptural visual qualities that provide superior functionality with a pleasing modern aesthetic that still retains the typography of “home”.
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© Florian Holzherr

MOS Architects:

The argument goes that Form is a System and Shapes are, well, shapes. The two are disciplinary fr-enemies they act like friends from time to time, part of the same clique, but in private they trash each other. Systems people are pedantic technicians, neurotic puppet masters of geometry. They obsess over means. They talk too much about process. They claim to like Schoenberg. Whereas, the Shape people describe themselves as cool, easy, and graphic.

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© Florian Holzherr

They are interested in an immediacy of effects. They live in Williamsburg. Systems are typically plan based. Shapes are elevations, or silhouettes. Systems are conceptual. Shapes are commercial. Systems like repetition and difference. They use patterns, trajectories, and magnitudes. Shapes prefer singularity, they use fillets to round corners and reinforce the shape. Systems are centrifugal. Shapes are centripetal. Systems get excited by the allure of computation.

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© Florian Holzherr

They play with Catia, Processing or Grasshopper, mumbling intensely about discretizing surfaces. Shapes prefer Photoshop and Illustrator. They use pens. Systems frustrate pictorial imagery, through their emphasis on process. They gaze at their feet. Shapes relish the pictorial. They swoon for photos. Systems produce their own ground. Shapes don’t like anything that disrupts their shape.

This little house in the middle of nowhere, it is indifferent to all of the above.

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© Florian Holzherr

Project Data:

Project name: Element House
Location: Star Axis, Anton Chico, New Mexico 87711, United States
Coordinates: 35.266597, -105.089405

  • Type By Characteristic: Green & Sustainable House, Prefab House
  • Type By Site: Desert House
  • Type By Size: Small House – (51 sqm – 200 sqm)
  • Type By Materials: Wooden House

Project Area: 135 sqm/1,500 sq.ft maximum
Status: Built
Completion Year: 2015
Visit Element House’s website:here

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer:Museum of Outdoor Arts (MOA)
Architects:MOS Architects – 226 West 135th Street, New York, NY, 10030 United States
Collaborators: Museum of Outdoor Arts (MOA), Star Axis
Text Description: © Courtesy of MOS Architects, Element House
Images: © MOS Architects, Florian Holzherr


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Element House / MOS Architects
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