Structures click with nature

VIRGINIA WINDER
Last updated 07:34 27/11/2012

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Like a man building with toy blocks, Wellington-based architect Chris Moller stacks five black Moleskin notebooks on the table beside his coffee.

On their pages are sketches and words - a flurry of ideas that record his journey to a new way of building, called Click-raft.

"As you can see, it's a deep philosophical journey and, in my view, philosophy is pragmatic. The devil's in the detail."

The notebooks are filled with beautiful scribblings, plans, systems and dreaming that finally came together. They clicked.

"I'm just as much an inventor as I am an architect," says Moller, who spent hours in the bush cutting every joint by hand for the first Click-raft prototypes.

Before the coffee break, the 51-year-old has been assembling a Click-raft structure ready for the new Puke Ariki exhibition, Kiwi Prefab: Cottage to Cutting Edge, which opens on Saturday.

On the floor of Prefab Gallery are stacks of wood that are labelled and notched. He picks up a piece of the 12-millimetre hoop-pine plywood and clicks it in to place, as a child would when making a Meccano or Lego house. But his structure is not toy-sized. It's ready for real-life living.

To make the structure habitable in the outside world, Moller would cover it with a polycarbonate translucent skin.

"That lets in the light, but not the neighbours," he says.

Moller has lived in one of his Click-raft buildings in the Netherlands, so knows how well the system works. At the time, he was running his practice from Groningen, the home of explorer Abel Tasman.

Looking out on the sea named after the adventurer, Moller says his building system draws inspiration from nature. He finds joy and thinking space while sailing the ocean or in the mountains.

"I think you need to learn with nature and understand that when you tune into nature's forces, you leverage an immense power - it's huge," he says.

But it's back to the tiny details that the inspiration for Click-raft is more obvious, especially the feathers on birds.

"If you zoomed right in, they have hooks. When a bird preens its feathers, it's realigning its hooks."

While Click-raft structures appear to be woven, they are different. Moller says that to unravel weaving, the leftover materials are often left deformed. That's not so with Click-raft - and that's where the "click" part is so important.

Not only can a structure be clicked together with ease, it can also be unclicked when a building or part of one needs to be disassembled.

"When gran comes to stay, you can ask the kids to put up a room for her in the backyard," he says. "And, when the kids leave home, you might take down their rooms, put them in flatpacks and store them in the garage."

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The self-described urbanist, who works on projects all over the world, says his building system is incredibly strong and could be used to make two- storeyed buildings and taller. It also encompasses S-shapes that join to make "Click-leaf" forms.

The exhibition also features 1:10-scale puzzle kits for people to build their own model and explore the system.

"It's so strong you can throw it around," he says.

Building the structures from wood, a renewable resource, wood - is also important to Moller.

He wants people to think of his structures as being like trees and to envisage that they could have a canopy covered in a skin infused with new- generation nano-solar technology.

Moller has spent 61/2 years inventing, designing, making and living with his Click-raft invention and says his efforts have been worth every second.

"And timely. As the world economy falters again, it is clear that there is a massive paradigm shift going on and it really is time to think differently about everything," he says. "Click-raft is my offering to these challenges.

"Hopefully, many people can benefit from its poetic economy and, like riding a good bicycle, get reconnected to the simple joys of our magic planet."

For further information, see click-raft.blogspot.co.nz/

Chris Moller will share his philosophies and prefab visions for the world at a presentation next Monday at 6pm in the Puke Ariki Foyer.

- Taranaki Daily News

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