Here's a story out of Beijing that's clever but also somewhat sad: for two months, a resourceful 24-year old architect turned folk hero named Dai Haifei lived on city sidewalks in a mobile, egg-shaped "sleep pod" because he couldn't afford Beijing's steep rents. According to People's Daily Online, earlier this month Haifei was forced to remove his home and is currently living with friends. 

Measuring six feet high at its highest point, the wheeled home was built for $964 using a bamboo frame clad with sack bags filled with sawdust and grass seeds. As you can see, Haifei watered the "roof" so his home added a bit of greenery to Beijing's grey urban landscape.
Inside the egg house, Haifei squeezed in a bed, water tank, washbasin and night table. Plug-in possessions, including a bedside lamp, were powered by a solar panel affixed to the top of the pod.
The firm employing Haifei was across the street from the egg house so, much to Haifei's delight, the commute was nonexistent. And from what I gather, he did his business either at his place of business or in public restrooms.


Haifei's inspiration for the home came from a conceptual design piece at the 2010 Shangai Biennale Exhibition called "City's Egg." He tells China Daily: "I was impressed by the green-notion of building a house like that, especially in cities like Beijing where rental price for a fresh graduate is a huge burden."
While living in his home, Haifei seemed content with his unique, rent-free living arrangement. He wrote in a journal chronicling the project:


When the house arrived in Beijing I put it under the building of my company. I already lived in it for over a month. I can get to work within seconds, no need to be on the crowded bus. This is considered a luxury in the traffic congested Beijing. I used the money I saved up from not paying rent to pay for an annual pass of a swimming gym, so I can go swimming, also take showers and go to sauna there. I don’t have a kitchen in the house, so I became a frequent visitor of the local restaurants around work. No need to make meals also saved me a lot of time. In the weekends, I can go the local coffee shops with a book or I can ride my bike around the neighborhood alleys. When the house is simplified to just one bed, other than sleeping in it, other things are taken care of in public places, this is a free lifestyle.
All sounds great but the fact of the matter is that Haifei was, until very recently, homeless and living outdoors in an unsafe (no matter how ingeniously designed) and illegal makeshift home. It's not an ideal situation even though Haifei claimed to be enamored with his "free lifestyle."
Here's hoping that with his newfound and somewhat unwanted fame — the People's Daily Online, describing Haifei as "a little heartbroken," writes: "If the story of the egg house had not been published on the Web, it is possible that Dai could still be living this life today as normal" — Haifei may be able to afford the rent in more traditional digs. 
Read more about Dai Haifei's egg-shaped abode over at ChinaHush where excerpts of his journals are published along with design renderings and an interview with Bejing News. The construction of the house is also documented on Haifei's Flickr account

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

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