This study argues that the relationship between mobile
houses and their cultural context is largely missed in the current literature
of mobile houses. The current architectural discourse on mobile buildings
stressing individuality and freedom based on mobility. Rather than praising
exceptional, unique, high-end or innovative prototypes design and realized
by architects, designers or engineers, this study’s approach attempts
to view clustered portable housing units of average in terms of uniqueness,
technology and innovation; often the mobile houses at place are not suitable
for the specific site and climate conditions which results in substandard
housing situations. Instead, the reality of mobile buildings outside the
architectural discourses can have also a very basic principle: mass production,
distribution at various places with the intention of confronting territorial
claim. In the extreme case of the mobile houses placed in the West Bank
by various agencies were appointed a political role, namely defining and
extending the territorial national boundaries in a state of political indefiniteness
and negotiations. The particular construction technology ‘mobile house’
is used by a culture in a particular way and for particular objectives.
(1) Some examples are Buckminster Fuller’s industrially produced and world wide deployable ‘Dymaxion’ (1928-45), Jean Prouvé’s prefabricated and demountable ‘House of the Lone Settler in the Sahara’ (1957), Archigram’s drawings of the ‘Walking City’ (1964) or the ‘Plug-in City’ (1964), Richard Horden’s lightweight and portable observation tower ‘Point Lookout’ (2001) or Lot-ek’s pluggable and standardized ‘Mobile Dwelling Unit’ (2003).
(2 ) The B’Tselem non government organization defines four settlement types in the West Bank in regards to their size, location and legal organization. These are 31 cooperative (kibbutz, moshav, cooperative moshav), 66 community (cooperative association unique for the religious right wing organization Gush Emmunim and its Amana wing), 13 urban (plus 12 in the Jerusalem metropolitan area) and 12 rural settlements. All four settlement types have rather homogeneous residents based on the selection process, except for the urban and rural settlements which loose their homogeneity the larger they become. (Yehezkel Lein in cooperation with Eyal Weizman, ‘Land grab: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank,’ Jerusalem: B’Tselem, 2002) Beside these, approximately 100 known illegal settlement outposts are existent in the West Bank. In sum, around 450,000 settlers are living currently in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
(3 ) Note that this report examines only the settlements which are ‘illegal’ according to Israeli legal frameworks and not international laws. This condition does not prohibit all settlement in ‘the territories,’ or ‘Judea, Samaria and Gaza’ but allows them only when following the four conditions. Furthermore, the report acknowledges the numerous appearances of mobile houses as describes as ‘caravans which are houses on wheels’ yet lack to describe further reasons for this preference. Also, the mentioned ‘caravans’ are technically speaking portable housing units, which can have attached wheels for transportation. In the case of the mobile houses evident in the West Bank, the mobile house is as such that it can be put onto a lorries and placed onto a site. The mobile house steel frame chassis has no wheels attached to it and is flat.
(4 ) This came out of interviews with the residents and the architect who is preparing a settlement plan with ecological aspects in regards to materiality, energy independence and resource recycling. In additional planning guidelines such as maximum height of buildings, street and parcel layout and further settlement growth capacities are being worked out.