A long time ago, our ancestors decided it was time to stop the nomad life and settle down. This marked an important milestone in the history of human civilization. Many, many years later, it seems that people are ready for something different and alternative forms of living and housing such as ecovillages, co-ops, or houses on wheels are getting more and more popular. Christian Frantal, the head behind “Pimp My Home“, an association willing to support handicraft, has decided to answer the cry for mobility, freedom and individuality by creating “Wohnwagon“. TedxVienna recently spoke with Christian about Wohnwagon, individual mobility and autarky.
The idea behind “Wohnwagon”
Please explain to us the idea behind “Wohnwagon”. What is it and how did you come up with it?
The main idea behind “Wohnwagon” is reduction on the basics, independence and happiness. For a long time, I have been asking myself: How much space do we actually need to live? How would that space have to look like? What does it have to provide you with and where should it be exactly? It occured it to me: It’s about going back to basics, the essential things – those places that make actual living so enjoyable, in a compromised space. With “Wohnwagon”, we want to create a new kind of living which provides the luxury of minimalism, the close vicinity of nature and creates room for air without simultanously disregarding design and quality. The ultimate goal of “Wohnwagon” is autarky: Achieving independence through producing your own electricity and warmth as well as using a composting toilet.
What stage of realization is your project currently in?
Currently, we are building our first prototype of “Wohnwagon”. At the same time, we are converting an old farmhouse into a workshop. We’re also looking for people who believe in our vision and want to support us from the start. We are doing this via the crowd investing platform CONDA. In addition to that, we are hoping to find a “business angel” who will help us finance the project. Last but not least, we are constantly in talks with various suppliers as well as with first potential clients.
What sort of role does crowd investing play in your project?
What we get from crowd investing is feedback and publicity. For us, crowd investing is a great way to kick off things, because you have people believing in your mission as investors instead of a bank which is constantly applying pressure to your project in a negative way. We are also very happy with the help provided by CONDA, especially when it comes to legal issues. Additionally, it is great to receive immediate feedback on our product, and we were also able to find first potential clients.
Christian Frantal and Theresa Steininger of “Wohnwagon”
People’s wish for individual mobility and autarky
Who do you have in mind when you’re planning a “Wohnwagon”?
The inhabitant. At the beginning, I was focusing on what I wanted: A place within nature where I could stay without actually having to build a house. Overall, though, there are various opportunities where the vehicle can be used, as it is basically a mobile piece of property. “Wohnwagon” can be a hotel room in the forest, an office in your garden, a vehicle used as a showroom or for promotions. Since every “Wohnwagon” is created individually, we can cater to all needs and purposes.
In your opinion, how important are individual mobility and the possibility to live in a completely self-sufficient way going to be in the future?
I believe it will definitely become more and more important. Our lives are becoming more dynamic, and as a result residential living as we know it will simply not be as modern and current in the future. We need more flexibility as well as meticulously thought-through solutions. In accordance with that, the German “Zukunftsinstitut” which publishes studies on the future development of different topics has just came out with a study showing that alternative housing and reduced living are definitely on the rise. And of course, there’s the question of resources: From an economic and ecological point of view, we won’t be able to ignore autarky or near-autarky solutions much longer. Expensive sewage systems, rising electricity and gas prices are simply not a concern for this form of living. Decentralized energy supply is definitely the future, if you ask me.
From “I want more” to “Less is more”
After consumerism had its glory days in the 90s and early 2000s, there seems to be a growing following of “Less is more” and the idea of minimalism in today’s society. What does this mean for “Wohnwagon”?
It means we have a future with our idea! It’s simply impossible to grow exponentially forever – and that’s precisely why we came up with “Wohnwagon”. It also serves as a political statement, of course: It’s about understanding the difference between wanting and needing something. We often “want” things, but does this necessarily mean we also “need” them? The more we own, the higher the effort is to be able to sustain what we own. To own less and for that to be real, individual, high quality, and maybe even homemade results in a clearer view, a bigger sense of freedom, quiet, time and above all, more beautiful and positive feelings. At the same time, reduction can meet high aesthetic, technical and manual requirements! And that’s precisely the thought we want to share with the world.
What future plans do you have for “Wohnwagon”?
Long live handicraft! “Wohnwagon” will be quite a dynamic product and it will continue to grow with the technical evolution of things – especially when it comes to materials: Photovoltaic textiles, for example, which can be used as a marquee and are able to generate electricity, or miniature wind turbines. We are definitely excited about what the future holds for our product.
We also want to give clients the opportunity to participate in the process of creating and designing their own personal space. My primary focus is the client and actual user of the “Wohnwagon” instead of the profit. At the same time, the use of regional and renewable materials, fair working conditions and a love for detail are self-evident.
Feel free to find out more about Wohnwagon and support its vision. If you are interested in finding out more about sustainable living and alternative housing, check out these TED Talks: Using nature’s genius in architecture by Michael Pawlyn, The route to a sustainable future by Alex Steffen or How bad architecture wrecked cities by James Kunstler.