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'Roll it' turns compact housing on its head


July 28, 2011

Roll it is definitely an out-of-the-box flexible housing solution (Image: University of Karlsruhe)

Roll it is definitely an out-of-the-box flexible housing solution (Image: University of Karlsruhe)

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Students from the University of Karlsruhe in Germany have created a flexible housing solution that makes the most of its minimal interior space in a very unusual way. Dubbed "Roll it", this cylinder-shaped home changes its purpose depending on its orientation - roll the the work space 180 degrees and it becomes a bed, the kitchen becomes a bathroom and you even get some exercise in the mouse wheel-like center section when you decide to "move house".

Student team Christian Zwick and Konstantin Jerabek came up with the "Roll it" idea when working on a project that explored the concept of "mobile and space-efficient construction."

The experimental design consists of an outer shell which comprises four supporting rings and a torsion inner shell membrane. Thin wooden slats are mounted to the external membrane, allowing the running surface to roll and stop.

The odd-ball interior design features several independent living solutions. The table and work space convert into the sleeping zone with the mattress held in place using velcro while blankets, pillows, linen and clothing can be stored in the space beneath it.

A "wet" zone located in the front section offers access to a toilet, sink and even a stove. The sink is embedded in the paneling, where a water tank is located above it and - thankfully - the hinged toilet design means it can't be turned upside down. Rectangular slits allow for natural light to filter through openings and a large circular opening at the end serves as the entrance.

Whilst it may not be the comfiest of housing solutions, the rolling design sure is novel.

Source: Detail (German).

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema. All articles by Bridget Borgobello

Novel, but in the real world it\'s useless.

Joseph Shimandle

Some of it might be interesting in a RV, or private airplane. But the toilet in the cooking area? YUCK!!!


I wonder where do these crazy concepts come from? How much do you need to smoke to come with something like THAT =)

Михаил Финогенов

In an odd way, this is some tricxkle-down tech from the space race... unfettered by gravity, and using primarily cylindical components, many space vehicle, and compnents of the ISS have similar interiors. It may not be practical for housing (although I could easily see the bed/work area installed in a room), it does show innovative thought and forward thinking.

Hmm.... I wonder if the bed/desk concept would fit into junior\'s room?!?

Mike Barnett

Interesting... I wonder how much Grant/Scholarship money was spent to build this useless prototype... in the age of VR Technology, can't we get a feel for interesting, possibly inspiring, and credibly creative, but utterly useless concepts virtually and put the funds to a little more productive use... like giving someone else a chance at an education. I mean no disrespect to the students, this kind of out of the box thinking is where innovation is born - but building a full scale model honestly seems to be such a waste of money and material. Shouldn't our universities be better stewards of their spending? of course the governments of the world have yet to tackle that as well!


Here are some of the things that cannot be rolled over: the p traps in the drains, the toilet, the refrigerator & AC, pictures on the wall and the payments.


other things best not rolled over...my \"bed\" and my \"desk\" this place reminds me that anoxexia has parallels in other areas of lifestyle...

Walt Stawicki

I like it!

Sean Lijek

Once again, what wonderful things do all these critics create that entitle them to be scathing in their comments? I think that it saves space,provides exercise and keeps people organized and alert. You can't be very sloppy in a house like that. I think if it were to form a hostel it would be very popular and the water issues could then become communal. I like it- it sure is a lot more efficient than all the wasted space and materials I see in the big metro areas. What about stadiums? Talk about waste. How can there be homeless when there are stadiums? Call me a dreamer but I say that greed,lies and denial are pushing humanity beyond the point of no return: critical mass. If people like this can literally think "outside the box" at this level, where will they be in a few years? We need to re-think our modern versions of "slash&burn" socio-economic procedures. This exercise does have merit in that AT LEAST it's not some big huge black hole yacht that only exists on some CGI file to soak up millions of dollars from some greedy arrogant individual. Gizmag has shown many of those-are they "practical"? At least this is real and represents an artistic departure from the mundane... for those amongst the masses that are ready for change. It inspires those of us who are pursuing creative alternatives such as homes built from shipping containers.


I reckon those that are disgusted with the toilet being near the kitchen must not go out to restaurants much since most of them also have toilets near the kitchen area to minimize plumbing infrastructure.

For my part I predict these modular housing concepts will be common by 2100 due to the necessity to optimize living space with overpopulation.

Jean-Pierre Levac

To fuss about \"vaste\" on this project is hypocritical. I gather with innovative cardboard cutting this could be even a homeless project...stretching it a bit but the material \"vaste\" on this is negligible where the outside-of-the-box mental factor is HUGE. (Look at one of the pictures from the outside: it is smallish... almost homeless cardboard house sized)

Those with little sclerotic arteries /rigid and inflexible \"commonsense down-to-earth\" implacable critics would particularly deserve stay in one of those houses contraptions: for a little shake up of their imposing judgments. This would do good do your brain! You would have to l e a r n.

I mean really? Can you imagine? Where is my bed? I..aah..


Novel but useless...A \"make-work\" projects for students....A waste of time & money...


Griffin, what the heck are you talking about? Just how much exercise do you think someone can get rolling this thing upside down and back? This is just a stupid idea, plain and simple. Instead of rolling a desk area into a bedroom (but not before clearing everything off the desk and finding some place to put it all where it wouldn\'t turn into a hopeless jumble when you roll), why not just put a desk next to a bed? Think about how big the true footprint is. I estimate a 7-foot diameter, which equates to a 22-foot circumference. That means it needs about 18 feet of space for it to complete a half-roll. You could have had a lot more useful floorspace for that 18 feet. Plus the fact that these things wouldn\'t be stackable, so you\'re stuck with sprawl instead of conserving valuable land area. And then there are the flexible utility fittings that would be needed. Flexible drain pipes for sewage and wastewater? Maybe we\'re critics because we\'re capable of practicing critical thinking.

Jean-Pierre, it\'s one thing to have a bathroom near a kitchen but separated by walls. But no health code in the US and, it\'s safe to assume, the EU would allow you to put a toilet in the same room as a regular kitchen, never mind a commercial kitchen. Even old, cramped tenements built in New York City over 100 years ago had to put the water closet in a separate space while the bathtub was in the kitchen.


Looks comfortable ;)

Michael Glazer

Hey Griffin - totally agree with your comments. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The more we encourage peaceful lateral thinking the better our future world will be.

This design has merit for a range of uses and I can imagine it in a train station or backpackers.


Wait, they need kitchens and beds in train stations? If a train station needs places for travelers to rest, the capsule hotels in Japan are an order of magnitude more space- and cost-efficient. And I\'d really like to see the backpacker who can lug this multi-hundred pound thing around. Did you notice this doesn\'t have a central pivot like a hamster wheel? It rolls like a log. Only one person can live in one, since you can\'t have people fighting over which side they want it rolled onto. That\'s incredibly wasteful. At least 9x22 feet (2.75x6.7 meters) of ground area. An actual 9x22\' room would be so much more comfortable, less expensive to build and less claustrophobic.

It seems some people are just wowed by the novelty, without thinking about the practicality or lack thereof.


These could very easily find a market in tourist areas as fun cabins, the novelty of staying in one would be a selling point. I know tons of people would mess around taking pictures of crazy poses in them. The fact that they are pretty small makes me think they could be installed on rooftops in cities as a fun place for young travellers that want a view.

And this definitely is not a waste of educational resources, the students involved in this will have learned a good deal about taking a concept to reality, and no doubt had to use critical thinking to work out the difficulties of such a design.

Michael Zarli

You may not agree with their solution. But I\'m sure you can agree that overcrowding is not just a problem of the future, but a problem of the present. This at the very least raises awareness of the problems an gives students a lesson on how to take concept to reality. Perhaps one of these students or someone inspired by them will create a more practical implementation of a similar concept in the future.

Also give it a central pivot point. Then renovate a highrise apartment building. Tear down all the interior walls aside from support structures. And fill the high rise with these rolling apartments. Instead of having the toilet inside the rolling thing each floor could share a public bathroom. You could then quadruple the number of people capable of living in that building. And the rolling apartments would be cheaper to make if they were already inside they wouldn\'t need plumbing or insulation. Rather then a circle perhaps a polygon of some sort could be used if that\'s easier to construct. Actually this sounds like an expensive renovation to sell budget housing. Well maybe someone could work with a similar idea and make it more practical.

Samantha Renault

OK first of all, the entire structure doesn't roll, simply the inside. The outer shell is stationary. So this structure is very space conscious and creative and can be stacked to save on land space!!!! All you naysayers out there need to 1) read the description better and 2) lay off the students who will truly making a difference in this world. I would love to live in one.

Living Martyr
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