Towards the end of his life, callers looking for George Bernard Shaw at his Hertfordshire, England, home, were often told the playwright had gone off to London. Little did they know that Shaw was referring to his rotating writing shed in the back garden, which he had slyly named after the capital.
Shaw’s London was built on a circular track that allowed the writer to spin the tiny structure, following the sun throughout the day to flood the room with natural light and warmth. On a hot day, he could simply turn his back on the sun, open the front door and back window, and let the cross-ventilation cool his office naturally.
Ben Kaiser, principal at Portland’s Path Architecture, has taken this idea even further, with 359 House. More than double the size of Shaw’s London, at 13 square metres, the two-storey structure is perfectly at home in Portland, which has become a mecca for tiny house enthusiasts. But 359 House offers a more refined, modern aesthetic than most of the cottages-on-wheels you’ll find in the city.
Rather than a pair of wheels that allow you to take your house for a spin down the highway, this one sits on a turntable that allows it to spin in place, letting the sun and natural light in when it’s wanted, or turning to shade when temperatures rise. The mechanisms that serve as the foundation evoke a railway roundhouse, and are so easy to operate, even a child can do it. Repositioning the house reduces the need for artificial light and also allows for passive temperature control in both summer and winter.
The structure has all the comforts of home, with a complete – though small – kitchen and bathroom, as well as sleeping and living areas and a deck. And though it’s only used as a guest house, there’s ample storage space.
As its name suggests, 359 House doesn’t quite spin all the way around – stopping at 359 degrees prevents the electrical and gas lines from becoming tangled up. Kaiser originally planned to build an off-grid, solar-powered house, but when the owners balked at the idea of a composting toilet, he devised a system of protected supply lines, all of which move with the building, and a stable sewer pipe that runs through the building’s centre.
Though 359 degrees seems perfectly adequate, Kaiser says he’s ready to go all the way with his next rotating house. Not content to stop here, he’s developed a new technique for installing water, power and gas lines that would allow 360-degree movement.