A tiny house with big aspirations is being built this week next to the campus of Augsburg University in Minneapolis.
The approximately 450-square-foot, six-sided structure being built in seven days is called the Hex House, and it’s one of the stops on this weekend’s AIA Minnesota Homes by Architects Tour. But in contrast to sleek modern mansions or lake homes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars typical of the houses on the tour, the Hex House is intended to cost as little as $35,000.
It’s designed to come in a kit that can be shipped flat and snapped together like an Ikea bookshelf by unskilled do-it-yourselfers.
Its target users aren’t urban sophisticates striving for a minimalist aesthetic. It is designed as shelter for refugees from conflicts like the Syrian civil war or disasters like Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
The house being built at Murphy Square Park is a demonstration prototype of a rapidly deployable, quickly erected, durable home for distressed populations. It was designed by a nonprofit collective called Architects for Society.
In addition to being part of the architecture tour, the house is also part of the 29th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum, an international peace congress at Augsburg on Friday and Saturday.
“Settlement and shelter is a predetermination for having peace,” said architect Amro Sallam, the Minneapolis-based executive director of Architects for Society.
Sallam said his organization includes architecture and design professionals from the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East and India, who banded together about two years ago to see how their skills could be put to work in helping disadvantaged populations.
“We’re looking at design for social good,” he said. “We’re sort of the Avengers of architecture and design.”
The Hex House is their answer to the need for dignified but low-cost and sustainable, medium- to long-term shelter for people displaced by natural or manmade catastrophes.
The houses are intended to be shipped in pieces and quickly built on-site by the inhabitants. Depending on the situation on the site, the houses could be outfitted with solar power and composting toilets. They’re raised off the ground to accommodate freshwater tank storage below the house.
The hex-shaped design adds rigidity to the house, and the structures can be built to connect to other hex units. Big enough to hold a family, each house includes a kitchen, bathroom, living area, two bedrooms and porch.
Sallam said 12-foot ceilings and the unusual shape of the building were designed to give it a feel of roominess compared with the “sardine can” experience of being in a box-shaped mobile home or storage container converted to housing.
“This is trying to give you the minimum, but not so small that you don’t have a place to put your shoes,” Sallam said.
He said the design group will need funding and partnerships with other organizations before the Hex House can go from prototype to actual use by refugees. Versions might also be marketed to tiny house fans seeking to minimize their impact on the planet, he added.
The house, which is being built in the park at 801 22nd Av. SE. in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, will be open for visitors throughout the Nobel Peace Prize Forum on Friday and Saturday and during the Homes by Architects Tour on Sunday. For more information, see nobelpeaceprizeforum.org/arts-events or aia-mn.org.