the ‘plugin house’ is an easily assembled house made from prefabricated parts. it is a design proposition that suggests new building technology considering financial, social, and environmental concerns and demonstrates the possibilities of smaller, more sustainable living for contemporary urban landscapes. there is a movement among local and municipal governments to introduce a policy to encourage the construction of small homes in infill areas or even backyards, efforts meant to address the housing crisis faced by many cities. the new approach can cut costs in half, making accessory dwelling units (ADUs) an affordable housing option. its creators brought the construction to harvard university and boston city hall to showcase its innovative features.

plugin house designboom



sponsored by harvard’s office of the arts and the harvard loeb fellowship at the graduate school of design, students — new to design and construction — have built the plugin house in the heart of harvard yard in six hours using a single tool. as a central feature of the harvard arts first festival, the house combined design with arts + culture as an animating force, bringing activity, vibrancy, and audience to the center of harvard yard. working in collaboration with harvard LOEB fellow eric williams and chicago’s silver room, the plugin house hosted site-specific installations and events including video installations, DJ sets, art exhibitions, and dance performances.



afterward, the plugin house was disassembled and rebuilt at boston city hall. the entire relocation process took a couple of days and required no replacement parts. partnering with the mayor of boston’s housing innovation lab, volunteers erected the structure in front of boston city hall. artists for humanity, a local non-profit organization, made drawings on the walls and floor to help visitors imagine how the plugin house interior could be fitted out and organized. the housing ilab organized open events with community leaders, policymakers, and housing advocates to discuss how solutions like the plugin house can help alleviate the city’s housing crisis. 

plugin house designboom





plugin house designboom






plugin house designboom





plugin house designboom



project info:


client: harvard university, boston’s housing innovation lab

location: cambridge and boston

date of completion: may 2018

principals: he zhe, james shen, zang feng project

team: feng ziqing, xu xi, li zhenghua, liang xiaomei, xiang weixing, kong ming, zhao yuemeng

photography: people’s architecture office, housing innovation lab, christopher andrew, maggie janik

sponsors: mayor of boston’s housing innovation lab, harvard office of the arts, harvard loeb fellowship, leping foundation


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