It's understandable why the humble A-frame is experiencing a nostalgia-driven comeback. Homey, petite, typically wrapped in decks and fronted by a soaring wall of windows, these triangular structures that surged in popularity during the 1960s and '70s meld indoor and outdoor living like no other type of vacation home can. I grew up with one and fondly remember my family's peak-roofed weekend house on the Puget Sound. (The cobweb situation, however, haunts me to this day.)
Italian architect Renato Vidal has apparently picked up on the attention being lavished on this midcentury architectural icon. In his design for M.A.DI., a prefabricated cabin that's delivered flat-packed like a mega-large piece of IKEA furniture, he tweaks the classic A-frame by tapping into two contemporary housing trends: mobility and modular construction. The result is a notable addition to the crowded tiny house scene, not only because of its pleasing throwback shape — the innovative structure is also incredibly versatile.
Firstly, M.A.DI. (modulo abitativo dispiegable or "modular residential deployable") works as a cozy vacation retreat that would fit right in as a permanent addition in the exact same places where you'd expect to find a stick-built A-Frame: beside a secluded lake, nestled deep in the woods, resting near the bottom of a ski slope.
But since M.A.DI. doesn't necessarily need to rest on a traditional permanent concrete foundation, the entire structure can be moved multiple times if one to were get bored of the scenery. It's a cabin you can take with you. And once M.A.DI. is moved, it's a breeze to put back together. The entire structure, which can be folded up like a napkin when in transport thanks to special steel hinges, takes only six or seven hours and three people to assemble. This includes both the crane-assisted unfolding process — shown above in a time-lapse video — as well as installing internal walls, windows and flooring. For many, this is the same amount of time it takes to assemble a regular-sized piece of IKEA furniture. The next step is hooking up electric, HVAC and plumbing, which are all pre-installed.
Plenty of portable possibilities
Because M.A.DI. is specifically designed to be moved around and re-assembled, its usage extends beyond that of a traveling vacation home. Emergency housing and pop-up housing for large-scale sporting events and fairs are two possibilities. The M.A.DI website also envisions it being used as first-aid facility “in case of natural disasters." On that note, M.A.DI. is earthquake-resistant, an important design consideration in Italy in recent years.
British tabloid The Sun wonders if M.A.DI. could also be used to help alleviate the U.K.'s housing crunch given its dainty size, portable nature, low environmental impact and relatively affordable cost of roughly $32,000 for the smallest model, which is roughly 290 square feet. Shipping and assembly costs, which M.A.DI. notes are equivalent to that of a container home, are not included. While the structures are built and will be readily available in Italy, there are plans to ship further afield.
Larger-sized M.A.DI. models can be assembled and taken apart in the same manner as the tiny-house-qualifying version. Two double-module models (495 or 603 square feet) feature two second-floor bedrooms in lieu of a single sleeping loft; a pair of triple-module models (753 or 904 square feet) offering even more room are meant for more or less permanent residential usage, in which case the structure can be anchored using screw-pile foundations. Built from cross-laminated timber, all models come with fully customizable bathrooms and kitchens and can be outfitted with solar panels, graywater systems and other sustainable features to further lower its environmental impact.
"M.A.DI. is one of the most revolutionary housing solutions on the market today. It grows, it changes and moves," reads the M.A.DI. website. "It creates cozy and safe places highly customizable according to your needs. It combines the key characteristics of a comfortable house: innovation and technology, healthy spaces surrounded by warm and eco-friendly wood. A construction with zero environmental impact that reflects the wishes of these times, where everything is changing and moving constantly."
Sounds lovely. And M.A.DI. truly is. Lloyd Alter at sister site TreeHugger even called the design "the most interesting prefab I have seen all year." He's right ... between the innovative folding technology, versatility and retro A-frame appeal, there's nothing else quite like M.A.DI. out there.
That being said, If M.A.DI. eventually finds widespread international distribution, I could see these nouveau factory-built A-frames easily ending up on many fantasy holiday wish lists. Who wouldn't want to find a foldable cabin sitting under a tree — or five trees?