From feeding wildlife to combating air pollution to serving as a blank canvas for artists-in-residence, the humble billboard is capable of a lot more than hawking products, infuriating locals, and warning us of yet another impending apocalypse. Roadside advertisements, on occasion, can do good.

From Slovakian firm DesignDevelop comes a new do-gooding roadside billboard concept, dubbed the Gregory Project, that isn’t so much about what’s being pushed on passing motorists … that’s largely irrelevant. Rather, the Gregory Project centers around the elevated structure that the advertisements themselves are plastered to, which, in this instance, is a spiffy little two-room hut that provides shelter to local homeless populations.

While perhaps not the most effective way to approach low-income housing, the mission of the Gregory Project — “to find optimal alternatives for existential questions of people without a home through the use of billboard objects and their advertisement spaces” — is an admirable one if you disregard the noise, the air pollution, and the isolation that comes along with living in a stilted shack sandwiched between two billboards on the side of a highway.

“Every home has its advantages and disadvantages,” Matej Nedorolík of DesignDevelop admits to The Guardian.

As for the triangular, ad-clad tiny houses that DesignDevelop envisions initially installing in the central Slovakian city of Banska Bystrica, the interior renderings show them as being rather lovely with lots of natural materials and the clever use of a minimal amount of floor space. Honestly, the dwellings are nicer than many of the high-end micro-housing solutions that we’ve seen in the past: the main room contains a lofted sleeping area with ample storage underneath, a kitchenette, and work area with desk. Nestled away in the apex of the structure there’s a separate bathroom with shower, toilet, and sink. The windows — and sleeping area — are located as far away from the road as possible. In total, the Gregory Project’s billboard houses would measure a bit less than 200-square-feet.

A touristy — and seriously beautiful — historical city of less than 80,0000 residents, Banska Bystrica has been eyed as a potential city to test out the concept — provided that sponsors, funding, and necessary permitting all materialize — due to the ease of connecting roadside tiny houses to local electric and water supplies. (To be clear, the electricity used to light the billboards will also be used to power the home). Off-grid solutions such as composting toilets, rainwater catchment systems, and solar panels could also be implemented to further save on operational costs.

Revenue generated from the rental of ad space on the side of the structures would be used in part to help maintain the homes. Essentially, they would pay for themselves. “Money from the rent of two advertisements for 12 months should cover the costs for building. If we find a company that could rent an advertisement for 12 months and also pay for it in advance, we can start with construction of the house,” Nedorolik elaborates to Co.Create.

It seems that the team at DesignDevelop has plenty more fleshing out of ahead, particularly on the logistics front, before the Gregory Project becomes a reality. My main concern is that while the initiative tackles the shelter aspect in an innovative manner, the essential services and support needed by those trying to get back on their feet cannot be overlooked. Still, the Gregory Project presents a very attractive alternative to taking cover for the night under a bridge or on the side of the road, without a roof.

I’m curious to see where Nedorolik and co., who launched the Gregory Project as an open-source initiative meant to be adapted by other designers in other cities, go with this.

Via [Designboom], [The Guardian], [Co.Create]

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

Slovakian billboard dwellings merge roadside advertising with low-income housing
The compact roadside residences of the Gregory Project, an open-source housing initiative, are subsidized by their billboard facades.