Caja Oscura: The perfect post-apocalyptic bolt-hole?


August 27, 2013

Caja Oscura was completed in 2012 (Photo: Pedro Kok)

Caja Oscura was completed in 2012 (Photo: Pedro Kok)

Image Gallery (23 images)

Paraguayan home Caja Oscura, by local architects Javier Corvalán and Laboratorio de Arquitectura, consists of a basement structure, with a manually-operated tilting metal box placed atop. With no natural light available when the box is closed, this unusual dwelling is probably not suitable for those who fear being trapped in a small enclosed space, but it is arguably the perfect place to ride out the Apocalypse ...

The property measures 85 sq m (914 sq ft), and contains a bedroom and bathroom in the crypt-like basement, with a kitchen and living area located in the metal box above (access is offered via a staircase). This latter area is transformed into a semi-outdoor space once raised with a hand-crank, and the metal box itself is constructed from iron tubes, with a galvanized corrugated metal exterior and MDF interior.

When closed, however, the structure appears to be very robust, safe from prying eyes, and more importantly, virtually impenetrable.

The actual impetus behind Caja Oscura's unique design, and whether or not such mundane practicalities as adequate ventilation and fire safety issues have been fully handled, isn't altogether clear.

"The project of Caja Oscura is a project of material and immaterial technology at the same time," explains the architect, somewhat vaguely. "In some way it is an antithesis of many known definitions of architecture, as the idea is made by absence of light."

To our minds though, it's obviously envisioned as the perfect post-apocalyptic retreat ready for the inevitable zombie rising – no need to be coy, Javier.

Caja Oscura was completed in 2012, at a cost of €20,000 (roughly US$27,000). The video below shows the roof box in operation.

Source: Laboratorio de Arquitectura via Arch Daily

La Caja Oscura de Javier Corvalán, Asunción, Paraguay from Pedro Kok on Vimeo.

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

And is anybody living in it - or is it just an architect design effort? That 'tilting' crank looks slow and laborious to me. They do not mention water or power storage / supply either. Closed, what is the life expectancy of occupants, does it seal tight (suffocation) or still llow air (radiation or disease pollution)? If you could only last a short while, some survivor with an AK47 spraying through the gap would take over in minutes. .

The Skud

Looks like a box trap. Would function like one in an emergency, too.


I see no peripheral vision the biggest enemy in a zombie apocalypse is the humans that are clinging to life being able to see them coming is a must. also the cranking of that is damn loud there is nothing worse than an unnatural clanking alarm that says kill me faster.

Jon Doughty

When it's shut the kitchen/livingroom becomes a camera obscura. You can clearly see the surrounding countryside projected on the wall in one of the pictures.

Windsor Wilder

Add air filtration below and solar water bottle lights on top, plus a few gun ports, and it might not be too bad... But use hydraulics to raise and lower the thing. That could help with the water situation as well.

Larry Hooten

If those walls are only tin a .22 round would even turn it to swiss cheese

Roger Aikins

What a death trap!!! In a bush/scrub fire, the iron exterior would heat so quick, it would then ignite the MDF interior turning that big square ugly box, into a microwave on high heat for about 60 seconds (well that's about how long you would be screaming in agony as you roast alive inside.

And what is with the video, if I want to spend my morning just watching things tilt, then I will head down to the local garden supplies and watch the tip trucks. They could have have fast forward the tilt process down to 4 or 5 seconds, get rid of the guitar playing and actually show some of the features of the building design. Or is the tilt all it has to offer ?????


@Roger Aikins: That's what the thick masonry walls on the first floor are for. As it is you could creep up to the obscured, cheaply built, second floor to make a cuppa without being seen while getting a panoramic view of what's going down outside. Okay, you don't have cover but sometimes concealment is good enough.

Windsor Wilder

I'll take a dirigible .

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