THE LIBERATED HOUSE
Ted Bakewell III and Michael E. Jantzen, St. Louis, Missouri, USA 1979
CAN YOU HOOK UP YOUR SELF-SUFFICIENT HOUSE ANYWHERE ON EARTH?
Designed by Ted Bakewell III and Michael Jantzen, the Liberated House grew out of Jantzen’s research for his own house in the late 1970s and his sustained interest in conserving fossil fuels through the use of solar and wind energy. Jantzen described his house as the “mothership” for the Liberated House, which was basically an autonomous vehicle. As Everett Ortner reported in Popular Science magazine, the mobile dwelling began its life by retrofitting and “cannibalizing” the chassis of an office trailer. In his article, “No hookups”, Ortner captured the seed idea of the house, which was to develop a mobile house that would be detached from municipal power networks and unrooted from any infrastructure or any one environment. The house could plug in any location for a limited timeframe, like a machine charged by harvesting natural elements. In effect, the home brought about an interest for geographical exploration within the bounds of minimal environmental impact. For Bakewell, an executive at Bakewell Corp which was a major real-estate development company in St. Louis, and Jantzen, a conservationist and designer focusing an alternative living, the prospect of an autonomous dwelling “on the go” could one day serve as the next frontier for luxurious vacation away from urban areas.
The house’s exterior was an aluminum steel shell for a water tight enclosure. Strategically located gutters on both ends, gathered rainwater to be stored in a tank at the building’s base for future use, below the kitchen’s grey-water tank. In the event of occasional droughts, the system did not exclusively rely on rainwater, but rather recycled and purified used water. As Bakewell pointed out, “Even the rainwater is filtered before it’s used, to remove the dirt washed off the building as well as some of the pollutants in the air.” On top of the structure and adjacent to the entry, were solar photovoltaics for energy accumulation.
Among the numerous strategies deployed for the house’s air, water, and heat were the turbine ventilators at the home’s rear for efficient air release and cross ventilation and two skylights, which assisted the silo domes to provide for natural light. Meanwhile, two large shiny, insulated ducts traversed the ceiling for heat storage inside; they carried heated air to huge storage chambers under the bed and the dining table. Alternatively, in the event of low energy collection from the sun, the incinerator adjacent to restroom generated heat from burnt waste.
The Liberated House follows the legacy of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House and Dyxamion car in the early 1930s and becomes a precursor for SOM’s 3D-Printed House in 2015, which can be powered by a car and travel anywhere. It also raises questions relative our current culture of electrically charged cars, which are marketed as a highly valued commodity, similar to the quality of Apple products. In this light, it is striking to observe that Jantzen’s Liberated House was spaceship on earth, marketed as an environmentally friendly inhabited vehicle; but it was one that did not invest in the vernacular aesthetics of concurrent countercultural projects of the time. The design sensibility present in this vehicle positions this case study in line of the Dyxamion House, the House of the Future and visions of future living, though stemming from the same preoccupation to live off the sun and the wind on earth.
KEYWORDS: Autonomous Dwelling Vehicle, Rainwater Harvesting
MASS-PRODUCTION: The project did not develop to become a mass produced dwelling as designers Ted Bakewell III and Michael Jantzen had hoped for.