M-House by Michael Jantzen is an example in prefabricated modern living

Based on reinventing prefabricated architecture, modular design and off-grid living, Jantzen’s M-House is a portable system where multiple iterations of a structure are possible.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jul 31, 2021

Michael Jantzen’s M-House, the idea and designs for which he released almost two decades ago, takes prefab housing to the next level. The M in the title stands for ‘modular, modularity', and this structure is part of his M-Environment vintage series of houses that are innovative, smart and planet friendly, made of components that are manipulable, relocatable, and easily transformable.

M-House designed by Michael Jantzen | STIRworld
M-House designed by Michael Jantzen Image: Michael Jantzen

Jantzen created M-House as part of his personal explorations into the reinvention of prefabricated architecture, wanting to create a system that ensures a great deal of flexibility in terms of its modularity, “that merged art and architecture into an aesthetically exciting series of structures”.

M-House was made of painted steel and concrete composite panels | M-House by Michael Jantzen | STIRworld
M-House was made of painted steel and concrete composite panels Image: Michael Jantzen

Designed to function as a small vacation retreat for two people, M-House is realised from a kit-of-parts made of steel and a cement concrete composite panel and wood fibre, painted a solid mint colour. “I chose those materials for the construction of the first prototype in order to maintain a high degree of fire resistance because the first structure was to be assembled on the property I owned in the grass-covered hills of southern California,” says the California -based architect, artist and conceptual designer.

All of the slotted hinged panels could easily be removed and/or folded in different ways to change the shape and function of the structure | M-House by Michael Jantzen | STIRworld
All of the slotted hinged panels could easily be removed and/or folded in different ways to change the shape and function of the structure Image: Michael Jantzen

Like Autobots and Decepticons from the Transformers media franchise, this system of components could be assembled and disassembled repeatedly, into various shapes and sizes, to accommodate a myriad of functions to become a retail and resting space for a solo travelling artist, a vanity room for an actress on an onsite shoot or a couple’s vacation retreat in the middle of a desert - the ideas are unlimited. “Of course, these structures also had to have the potential of being very eco-friendly, and easily adaptable to the use of alternative energy systems such as wind and solar,” shares Jantzen.

View of a solar and wind pod to generate electricity; it could also collect and store rainwater for use in the house | M-House by Michael Jantzen | STIRworld
View of a solar and wind pod to generate electricity; it could also collect and store rainwater for use in the house Image: Michael Jantzen

The allegedly self-sufficient off-grid structure is purely functional and consists of a series of rectangular panels linked by hinges, either horizontally or vertically, to a grided frame, that can be coaxed into different forms. Each module sits on a bolted steel frame that is equipped with self-levelling support legs with attached footpads anchored to the earth. A matrix of square steel tubes forms seven large open cubes, which were bolted onto the legs.

View under the exterior canopy (L); The exterior canopy allowed for shaded outdoor space (R) | M-House by Michael Jantzen | STIRworld
View under the exterior canopy (L); The exterior canopy allowed for shaded outdoor space (R) Image: Michael Jantzen

Some of the concrete composite panels were attached to the steel frame as flat flooring, while others were attached to secondary steel support frames connected to some of the cubes with loose pin hinges. The reason for using loose ones was so they could be removed easily, to other parts of the open support cubes, and/or folded in different ways to alter the building’s shape to accommodate the user’s changing needs.

  • Inside the M-House vacation retreat | M-House by Michael Jantzen | STIRworld
    Inside the M-House vacation retreat Image: Michael Jantzen
  • Interior view of the first level | M-House by Michael Jantzen | STIRworld
    Interior view of the first level Image: Michael Jantzen

The hinged panels form open-air exterior spaces with a central core of enclosed interiors fitted with the same, muted mint green exterior with no decoration. Insulated painted steel panels form those enclosed spaces, bolted onto some of the open support frame cubes; Some of those insulated panels include glass windows, doors, wiring and plumbing. These panels can be detached from the cube support frames at any time, along with the cube frames and the floor support frame, to manipulate the structure’s configuration according to the site and user.

  • Bedroom | M-House by Michael Jantzen | STIRworld
    Bedroom Image: Michael Jantzen
  • The second level | M-House by Michael Jantzen | STIRworld
    The second level Image: Michael Jantzen

Other uninsulated panels fold in or out, over and around, open outside to become shading devices to block the sun, the wind and the rain. Some panels fold inwards to become makeshift platforms to sit on, sleep on, or become desks for working or ironing. Each low-slung form can therefore be built according to unique specifications so that no two M-Houses are alike.

“Much of my architecture work has explored ways in which buildings can change relative to changing needs. I prefer forms that can change and adapt,” shares Jantzen.

  • Drawing of the support frames with some of the slotted hinged and insulated panels attached | M-House by Michael Jantzen | STIRworld
    Drawing of the support frames with some of the slotted hinged and insulated panels attached Image: Michael Jantzen
  • Drawing of the support frames | M-House by Michael Jantzen | STIRworld
    Drawing of the support frames Image: Michael Jantzen

Imagine if you could set up your food workshop at the nearest beachfront and unfold your solitary writing-cum-yoga studio in an unmanned parking lot the next week! M-House offers a modular architecture that can be transported, reassembled, and rebuilt in a matter of days, as easily as rearranging furniture around your house.  

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