Thinking inside the box

Thinking inside the box

It’s like that feeling when you open a package that just arrived in the mail. As you lift the object out of the box and set it down on a table, you smile knowing how well it’s going to fit into your life. CUBITAT is just like that, except it’s your house. By David Wex & Paddy Harrington.

Toronto’s Interior Design Show (IDS) is Canada’s premier showcase of new products, innovative designs and avant-garde concepts from around the world. For four days every January, IDS packs Toronto with industry superstars, cutting edge emerging names, design-savvy consumers and international press. 

For IDS 2015 Urban Capital, together with Italy’s Nichetto Studio, was asked to curate the main feature. The result: Cubitat, a plug-and-play, customizable, and transportable cube that contains everything you need in a house. 

The idea behind Cubitat is architecture as product. Your living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and closet are packaged into one exquisitely designed object, something custom ordered online, fabricated off -site, shipped to wherever you want it, and installed. 

Cubitat is designed to be placed in any empty space ― your typical 600 square foot condominium could work easily. Each of Cubitat’s four exterior walls has a distinct function: upon entering your space there are extensive storage cabinets, and then you have a choice of walking down either side, one has your kitchen, the other the entrance to your bathroom. The fourth wall faces your open living area, with a large entertainment wall equipped with a flat screen TV, retractable book shelves and a hidden queen-size bed which slides out from underneath (the step-up bathroom is above this). All electrical and plumbing is brought to one central location, from which it plugs into the building’s services. 

Cubitat creates a modular prefabricated house-in-a-box that can be inserted into any form of structure, whether new residential, old factory or converted loft. It gives the owner a choice of what they want in their kitchen and bathroom. And it lets the hard, messy stuff of building get done in the controlled conditions of a factory. 

Or at least theoretically. While Urban Capital was able to manufacture Cubitat at a site in Toronto and then transport it ― on a flatbed truck, with police escort ― to Toronto’s convention centre, at the end of the exhibition Cubitat had to be dismantled (and its parts returned to its various suppliers). This version of Cubitat had not yet been designed to come apart and be transported, or stored, in pieces. 

Nevertheless, Cubitat garnered attention around the world. Online coverage of it went viral. It was the top viewed article on Slate for days after it was posted, and was picked up by newspapers and design blogs in Europe, Asia, North and South America and Australia. There were multiple requests to show it at international design exhibitions. 

Where would Urban Capital take Cubitat if it went forward with Version 2? The next design phase would look at designing Cubitat as individual pieces that snap together and are able to be flat packed ― à la Ikea ― to allow for more nimble transportation as well as on-site assembly and dismantling. 

Possibly a task of IDS 2017. UC

Imagining architecture as product


01 Design - Configure your Cubitat online according to your own personal specifications. Nike pioneered an online product customization tool that lets customers log onto its website, choose a basic shoe type, and then go through a set of easy steps to personalize it. Mass-produced small-scale products do this but nobody is doing it at scale with architecture ― until Cubitat.


02 Make - Your custom Cubitat is assembled according to your order. If architecture and our building industry evolved at the same rate as the tech and auto industries, we’d live in dramatically different ways. Architecture as product rethinks our relationship to the built world. It imagines architecture as fast, not slow, and configurable, not static.


03 Deliver - Have your Cubitat shipped to the location of your choice. Cubitat takes the core elements of your house, wraps them up together and delivers them all-in-one pretty much anywhere. Whether it’s setting up your starter home or taking your home with you when you move, Cubitat makes just about any place a place to live.


04 Install - Hoist, sit or slide your Cubitat in place and plug it in. You know how you plug in your Mac and get going right away? Cubitat is the same but for your house. Live in a condo? Hoist Cubitat up to your floor and slide it in. In the country? Build a platform, plug in to services, and away you go.



05 Live - Move right in and live in a whole new way with Cubitat. Cubitat living makes small things fun. It’s like vacuum packing your home. Cubitat is everything you need to live nearly anywhere you want to live.