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Womb service: a machine for living provides a movable feast, allowing its occupant to juggle the volumes. (Design Review).

Womb, the name of Johnson Chou's invention of an adjustable room, stands for work, office, home, base. As a starting point for design of this prototype room (built for last year's Interior Design Show in Toronto), the word also expresses Chou's idea of retreat from external chaos.

For some time now Chou has been interested in architectural conjuration, in contriving to make things appear and disappear. Design of a cabinet of curiosities (AR August 2001) drew on Eileen Gray's ideas of pivoting, movable elements and on Marcel Duchamp's Portable Museums. The cabinet seems to be an inscrutable glowing box but is gradually revealed as an intricate puzzle of parts that shift or rotate.

A similar intricacy underlies the stripped down simplicity of Womb--a single volume that can be transformed at the touch of a button or two into an apartment with kitchen/dining, bedroom/living, and office or an austere contemplative space. The underlying assumption in this exercise is that overall space is a reasonable size and, in this case, the volume measures 56[m.sup.2] and is a wood-framed, rectangular box-within-a-box. To create pure space, surrounding voids are wide enough to accept fold-away furniture and services (air conditioning, electrical, plumbing and insulation systems). Acid etched glass walls lining the long sides of the box, 600mm (2ft) away from external walls, accommodate storage and are backlit.

At Womb's centre is a suspended stainless-steel fireplace and a pool which is intended to aid meditation when the volume is empty, and to be used for bathing when the bathroom is in operation. Drained like a conventional bath, it is filled from taps discreetly mounted beside the raised marble floor.

All furniture and fittings, including dividing screens, appear and disappear into walls and floor. Beside the pool a bathroom is concealed behind a U-shaped screen that can be moved out on runners; when the bathroom is not needed, the screen closes against the fittings. The living area, separated by the pool from the work/kitchen space contains a bed that disappears into the floor when not required and allows a cantilevered sofa to fold down from the wall.

Similarly, a dining table pivots to make room for a kitchen unit which, connected to the plumbing system by flexible pipes, slides out from the wall when required.


Johnson Chou, Toronto

Project team

Johnson Chou, Steffanie Adams, Stacle Amo, Georgia Ydreos, David Hanna, Carly Butler
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Title Annotation:Johnson Chou's adjustable room invention stands for work, office, home, base
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Previous Article:February.
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