Circular Affordable Housing Prototype

By Patrick Sisson / Published by Dwell
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Inside the shell of the Oyster House prototype lies a new shape for affordable housing.

It was the grain of sand that became a pearl. CxMxD, a team of three New York City–based designers, hit upon the idea of a faceted circle while conceptualizing their entry for Add-on’13, an affordable-housing competition in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. That circle evolved into an adaptable five-sided structure called Oyster House, which design lead Christopher Lee, visualization designer Mengyi Fan, and graphic designer Dungjai Pungauthaikan envision as a way to build for high density and low impact. 

The 700-square-foot Oyster House prototype achieves more with less: less energy, less building material, and less building area. Photo by Timothy Bell.

The rooms are arranged from most public to most private and face outward to maximize borrowed space from the outdoors. "A circular arrangement [means] you’re able to modify and orient the house to take advantage of the landscape," says Lee. "And it’s superefficient in terms of surface area." At 700 square feet, the pentagonal Oyster House—which will be built with structural-insulated panels and clad in shingles—has less surface area than (but the same floor area as) an equivalent rectangle or square, meaning lower heating and cooling loads.

The house’s basic shape—a faceted circle with five sides—is a repeatable unit that can be deployed as a single structure or in clusters. Rendering by CXMXD.

CxMxD has also envisioned some slight changes that would allow the house to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), something they’ll address in their next step: building and testing the prototype in a Cape Cod town. "Wellfleet has a rich history of modernist case study houses," Pungauthaikan says, "and we’re interested in continuing that legacy."

Oyster House Floor Plan

A Entry

B Living Room

C Kitchen and Dining Room

D Bathroom

E Bedroom

F Deck

G Permeable Paving Patio

Project: Oyster House
Architect: CXMXD

Patrick Sisson


During the course of his career writing about music and design, Patrick Sisson has made Stefan Sagmeister late for a date and was scolded by Gil Scott-Heron for asking too many questions. His work has appeared in Pitchfork, Nothing Major, Wax Poetics, Stop Smiling and Chicago Magazine.

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