HUS-1, A Biodegradable and Sustainable Home by Torsten Ottesjö.

Hus-1 by Torsten Ottesjö

Hus-1 is a small house designed and built by Torsten Ottesjö. The building was constructed on site. The idea is a dwelling as personification. The dwelling features convex walls which seam together with the floor creating both a sense of airiness and a naturally curved seating space along the sides of the interior. The structure is free-standing, so it can be moved anywhere; though the feeling is that it has actually sprouted out of the ground it rests on.

Hus-1 by Torsten Ottesjö

The 25 sqm (269 square feet) house aims to provide a living space beyond understanding. It is supposed to fit, to enable – not to distract or cause attention. Hus 1 regularly houses two people all year round but visiting friends always have room. Kitchen, sleeping quarters, dinner table, hallway and other functions are well integrated on just 25 square metres (269 sq ft) of living space.

The following text is reprinted from the designer’s site and is written in the first person:

Buildings are often seen as rigid and ugly, while untouched Nature is considered as being undoubtedly beautiful. Trying to reproduce Nature may be seen as ugly, but never the original in itself. The untamed Nature is a source of incessant beauty. Why is this? Is it because the beauty of Nature lies in its complexities and its eternal variety? Our mind is simply stimulated by our insufficiency in facing its details. We are intrigued and inspired by that which we cannot understand or even grasp.

Just like the numerous forms of the branches of a tree, humans love Nature in a variety of ways. Is it possible to build a house which can be loved by so many in countless different ways? I wanted to try to build a house which was seen as beautiful in the same complex way as Nature. Angles and flat levels are at odds with the creation of Nature, but what are the alternatives? How do you build something that feels unconstructed? How can you imitate Nature in the form of a house?

By using doubled-curved surfaces and complex forms, I wanted to adapt the house to Nature’s infinite variety of form.

I wanted the house to be difficult to overlook, no matter what the angle or the shape. Whether we look at it from either the outside or the inside, a lot is still left open. I believe we grow wiser if we are not given all the answers directly. Instead we get used to the fact that we cannot know everything. We learn to make decisions in relation to our surroundings and the square block-shaped architecture that surrounds us encourages a simplistic logic. It is not a suitable environment for humans.

Few people have a larger volume than 0.1 m3 but many live in a home larger than 100 m3. This depends on our need for space in order to move around freely. We need to focus our eyes on different distances. We enjoy space. However, don’t we often have too much? What is it that makes a room spacious? Is it necessarily its size in cubic metres?

It is more common to hear a person express love for a car than for a house. I believe it has to do with scale. It is easier to feel the connection with a car since its volume resembles our own. On that basis I think it should be possible to build a house that is actually quite small but which feels large and spacious. I wanted to adapt the size of the house to suit the movements of the body and to make it completely comfortable to be in. Wherever a person comes in contact with the building it should be tailored for the form and the mechanics of the human body.

Except for our own volume, we surround ourselves with furniture. Why all these objects? In practical terms, we need extremely few things to survive, but we may feel happier surrounded by beautiful things. Apart from the vital things we need, we want beauty, stimulus and comfort in order to function and enjoy ourselves.

The Body
Furniture and other box-shaped objects are often ponderous and suited for simplistic volumes such as cubic rooms and not necessarily for the human body. The body is complex in the same way as Nature and therefore needs a complex environment. A room is meant for human bodies and not for boxes.

I wanted to work with all surfaces of the room and create a room which in itself was comfortable. I wanted to create surfaces where you can sit and stand, lean against and lay on, giving you the ability to lean comfortably against the walls as if they were the back of an armchair. By optimizing the whole room, you liberate a lot of volume which in its turn makes a small room spacious. In my mind, a well-designed room does not need to be big or filled with furniture.

Apart from appealing to human scale, what other advantages are there in building a small house?

Small houses are energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. They demand less building material and are therefore cheaper. They are more easily heated and cleaned. The impact of a small house is limited, both when it comes to resources as well as the land where it is placed. Small houses are also more easily handled and transported. I wanted to have the opportunity to build the whole house in a hallway in order to lift it easily and transport it, by road, in one piece.

I have been inspired by the various forms of Nature but also by airplanes, cars, boats and bridges. They all have a very specific function and aesthetic and are freer in their forms than houses. These constructions require a lot; the construction needs to be both light and strong, adapted to weather, to be both resistant to air and water, to be safe, comfortable and to have an appealing outside as well as inside. These constructions more often have a more optimized thought behind it than found in conventional architecture.


Wood was chosen for a number of reasons, I needed to work with doubled-curved surfaces, it was necessary that the material was easily shaped. The building also needed to be economically justifiable and the material easily manufactured, processed and handled. Therefore, wood plays a prominent role in the framework, insulation, surface layer and fittings consist of wood or wood-based products.

Wood was also chosen out of consideration for biodegradation and sustainability as well as for the way the material ages. Wood is beautiful in that is has a memory. Changes in the environment are illustrated by the life and ageing of the wood. You can see the users historic impact on the material as it slowly wears away. I wanted this life to be seen. Surface treatments have been chosen with care, without taking out the rubbed, sometimes planed patina of the ash, the spruce and the aspen. On the whole, surface layers have been kept untreated and have been whitepigmented with linseed oil or heat treated and oiled.

Hus 1 represents an experiment in architecture and is a prototype, and it’s construction reflected this. Torsten’s working methods were therefore filled with analysis, studies and tests in order to find the right product and approach. Knowledge of the wood’s qualities, searching for the right method and discussions with special advisors have all helped to complete the project.

The building is very stable despite the lightweight construction of bended and glued dry wood. The glulam construction was set up in situ. It was covered with reinforced board which turns the construction into a framework with a surrounding body. The load is distributed across larger areas which leads to increased durability.

Thanks to the building construction, moisture is evenly absorbed and distributed. All walls and roofs have a surface layer of biodegradable, cellulose-based, reinforced board which is resistent to water and wind, but open for moisture. This two-way directed moisture transfer is beneficial in times when the building is out of use or not heated. The spruce roof shingle is a porous layer which allows moisture to diffuse through the roof underlay.

all images and information courtesy of Tosten Ottesjö