Mirko Tobias Schäfer / Assistant Professor
University of Utrecht Department for Media and Culture Studies

World in a Shell

It is designed to resist severe conditions, wind, cold, heat and provides a sustainable microcosm, producing and storing its energy, providing water supply and shelter. The core of the shell is a standard freight container to which the aluminium profiles of the shell are attached. The outer shell serving as a tent attached to the container provides a 120m2 shelter which is completely equipped with a kitchen, a sink, toilet, a workspace with computer and screen, all of which is built into conveniently to store boxes. When de-assembled all parts can be stored in the container and transported to a different location. Energy is produced by sun collectors and wind propellers attached to the outer shell.

The high-tech home for the 21st century nomad has been developed by Hans Kalliwoda who is an artist not an engineer. In an interdisciplinary collaboration with various departments at Delft University the shell has been realized over the past five years. While the engineers where more focused on the development of sustainable design and a sophisticated mobile shelter meeting the needs for technology and communication infrastructures, the vision of Kalliwoda aims at a trial and error experiment that is soon about to start. Testing the technical design in
the wild is only one side to it, the other is meeting people from nomadic cultures who live for generations with the challenges of mobility. Visiting eleven different climate zones and inhabitants of nomadic cultures will not only put the World in a Shell to a test but also confront Kalliwoda with the various life styles and strategies of mobile housing. In a way the World in a Shell might look like an alien object from distant future that landed in the Sahel or the Mongolian desert, but to Kalliwoda it is an crucial opportunity to meet those cultures that are experienced with nomadic lifestyle for centuries. The nomad is not a romantic archetype in Kalliwoda's visionary project, she does not lend herself to add credibility to an advanced camping project, but actually serves as a serious role model for future living. In a world that will be confronted with devastating changes in both political and environmental climate the nomadic lifestyles might become a necessity. In this visionary project, learning from the past and applying today's technological advancement might constitute concepts
for future living. In a more applicable way Hans Kalliwoda recognizes his project as a journey back in time to those civilisations our technological advancement and our ruthless strive for economical efficiency has brought on the verge of extinction. Visiting them and connecting to their knowledge chains as well as learning from their perspectives on spatial perception, social interaction as well as their ways of dealing with the environment is to Kalliwoda a necessary for adapting to a changing world.

In my opinion the World in a Shell project is remarkable in many ways: It brings up again the issue of romanticizing nature and nomadic lifestyle which is pervasively visible in the many commodified outdoor activities and related industries; in its ways as phony as it is harmful to the environment. It furthermore contests our relationship to nomadic culture that have been brought to extinction as well as it can raise the issues of the new migrations that are either in an embarrassing way kept out of sight on the fringes of the European fortress or framed as threat to our culture by right wing politicians. Apart from all that World in a Shell is an amazing technological experiment of constituting mobile work and living units that meet the needs for today's comfort and communication infrastructures.

The project World in a Shell can be followed at

Image credits: Arno Vrijman

Date July 2010 Category News

From the outside it looks like an oversized camping tent, from the inside it is more like a space station. World in a Shell is a complete high-tech living environment that perfectly fits into a standard freight container.

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