OPod Tube Housing

By Ulrikke Myklebust Johansen.

Did you ever imagine how the trailer-park housing stacks from the dystopian sci-fi book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline would look like in reality? [1] Or perhaps you’ve seen the movie which gives a set image for what is the future for a vast amount of people. Where living in dinky trailers stacked so high that you wonder when they will tip over is just part of the inhabitants every-day life. That future might not be far away.

Ready Player One, The stacks. Movie by Warner Bros, directed by Steven Spielberg.

In cities like Hong Kong the inhabitants are facing a major housing crisis due to the ever-increasing population. The demand for accommodation is high and the property prices are skyrocketing, making it increasingly hard for young residents to afford private housing [2]. So how does one go about solving such a large-scale problem in an efficient and sustainable way? Studio James Law Cybertecture has recently developed a prototype for low-cost stackable homes in concrete pipes, named OPod Tube Housing. The housing concept looks at how we can make 2.5-metre-wide concrete water pipes into 9.29-square-metre apartments with doors that can be unlocked using smartphones. And despite its size, each apartment will have the possibility for commodities like sleeping, cooking, bathing and living [3].

James Law Cybertecture, OPod Tube housing stack concept. http://www.jameslawcybertecture.com/?section=projects

How does it work?

Each concrete tube can be stacked in narrow gaps between existing architecture and with each unit weighing 20 tonnes they can be lifted with a standard medium-sized crane onto a long flatbed trailer, allowing them to be relocated when needed [4]. And with support frames, the tubes can form bigger communities. Example: It’s possible to set up a stack of 21 units on two levels in less than three months, providing residence for twenty people that share a common kitchen and co-living courtyard [5]. Additionally, James Law Cybertecture claims that the pods can be manufactured for about £11,000 each and could be rented out for less than £300 a month. A huge difference compared to the current renting prices in the city, which can spike to about £1,500 a month [6]. And according to the studios website they have been in dialogue with the government and the completion of a housing stack will be available for rent in 2019 [7]. Interior/exterior The OPod Tube Housing concept is seemingly created out of pure necessity but there are several interesting aspects of using these ready-made waterpipes in architectural design. The tubes are very practical material-wise, since waterpipes are ready-to order and might work well within the geographical climate of the city. Further, concrete maintain comfortable temperatures as the material is good at absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night [8]. Aesthetically the tubes, which are all identical, might seem uniform and cold. But the interior walls are whitewashed, and the floor is flat shaped wood, lessening the industrial atmosphere. The use of primary colours like yellow and blue in the interior breathe life into the grey concrete exterior and brings a sort of optimism and playfulness to the tubes when stacked [9]. All in all, the apartments are minimalistic and strictly functional but considering their renting price and size, they offer a balanced combination of comfort and modern design.

Another aspect of the tubes is the usage of the geometrical cylinder with a circle-shaped front. A form we see all around us in nature, varying arts and design. A form that we never seem to tire of since geometrical forms are satisfying to the human eye. But is the shape practical considering that these apartments are created out of a high demand for housing? James Law Cybertecture aren’t the only ones designing new housing models for the residents of Hong Kong and the OPod Tubes aren’t as space efficient as let’s say, upcycled shipping containers, but on another note: James Law Cybertecture doesn’t see this solution as a permanent one for solving the housing crisis. The studio believes that the design can provide affordable, short-term residency for young people for a span of one to two years. The concept isn’t exclusively tied to Hong Kong either, as there are several of the worlds cities that is in need of affordable and sustainable housing options now and in the future [10].

Yet how will living in a small tube affect a person over time? Especially if that person happens to live in one of the tubes for more than two years. If the resident spends most of their time working or using facilities in the city – then living in a micro apartment doesn’t seem like a problem. But humans aren’t as uniform as these waterpipes, we’re exceptional at adapting, but that doesn’t mean it prevents us from spiralling down a dystopian way of thought when living in a small, uniform space over a longer period. Luckily James Law Cybertecture has already thought about solving problems concerning commodities and are able to include social facility options for the residents in a tube stack community, like the possibilities for common-areas and social spaces included a common kitchen per twentieth resident.


[1] See illustration 1, Ready Player one, The stacks.

[2] Block, “Micro apartments in concrete pipes designed to ease Hong Kong’s housing crisis”.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] James Law Cybertecture, “Projects”.

[6] Block, “Micro apartments in concrete pipes designed to ease Hong Kong’s housing crisis”.

[7] James Law Cybertecture, “Projects”.

[8] Thuen, «Betong».

[9] See illustration 4 and 5, OPod Tube housing exterior/interior.

[10] James Law Cybertecture, “Projects”.


Block, India. “Micro apartments in concrete pipes designed to ease Hong Kong’s housing crisis”. De Zeen. 16. Jan. 2018. Last visited 07. Oct. 2018. https://www.dezeen.com/2018/01/16/opod-james-law- cybertecture-hong-kong-micro-apartments-concrete-pipes-low-cost-housing- crisis/?li_source=LI&li_medium=rhs_block_1

Thue, Jan. “Betong”. Store norske leksikon. 30. May. 2018. Last visited 07. Oct. 2018. https://snl.no/betong

James Law Cybertecture. “Projects”. Last visited 07. Oct. 2018. http://www.jameslawcybertecture.com/?section=projects