Walking House Continues Its Stroll Around Wysing Arts

By Adam Bambury | 28 October 2008
The walking house in motion.

The Walking House uses solar and wind power and can move on many types of terrain. © Wysing Arts Centre

Exhibition Notice - Walking House at Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge, is running until November 30 2008.

It’s not often that the world’s eyes turn to the green landscapes of rural Cambridge, but the Walking House has a habit of turning heads. The six-legged abode took its first measured strides on British soil at the Wysing Arts Centre last week, and will be perambulating the pastures until the end of November.

A creation by Danish artists N55, the Walking House has captured the imagination of many a frustrated city dweller on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Daily Telegraph enjoyed its ability to escape 'unruly neighbours', while The Guardian nodded with approval at its solar-powered systems. Even ABC’s flagship news programme Good Morning America took time out from the election to have a look at the hexagonal housing solution.

Wysing Arts Centre has gained a reputation for its forward-thinking nature, allowing artists to take risks in a supportive environment. But as the Walking House wanders in and around the 11-acre site, it seems they are making the most of their pastoral location aswell.

Six hydraulic legs propel the house at around five kilometres an hour- a steady walking pace. This is no coincidence according to N55’s manual, which states: “It is a common fact that walking often helps a person concentrate their thoughts and creates a mental state that enforces mobility of the mind. The Walking House is constructed to move at human muscle speed for exactly this reason.”

A man sits inside the walking house looking out the window.

Danish artists N55 will take the Walking House back to Copenhagen, where one of them intends to live in it permanently. © Wysing Arts Centre

The designs, manuals and concepts for the Walking House are also on display at the Arts Centre. They document the evolution of the concept from its roots as an intended collaboration with a group of travellers near Cambridge.

N55 found that many of the group had been forced to settle, living on the margins of a largely hostile society. Seeing no way to ease the travellers' current woes, they instead looked to the history of nomadic culture to provide inspiration. The traditional Romani horse carriages of the 18th century provided a suitable starting point for the project.

The inherently political nature of travelling culture has not, however, been ignored: “The Walking House requires no permanent use of land,” says the manual. “And thereby challenges ownership of land and suggests that all land should be accessible for all persons.”

Other ideas on display include Walking Villages - many houses linked together to form huge mobile spaces. These would not be limited to housing, and could be specialised in certain areas like food production, with specific modules for greenhouses and fisheries.

N55 themselves are no strangers to the nomadic life, with member Ion currently based on a rusty boat in Copenhagen. He plans to move in to the Walking House when it returns to Denmark.

Whether it is a solution to society’s current problems or an expensive curio, the Walking House certainly makes an intriguing sight roaming the countryside with its Moon Lander-meets-gypsy caravan looks. Perhaps the excitement surrounding its unveiling, suggests it is a step in the right direction.

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