Imagine a mobile home community without Ricky, Julian or Bubbles. The trailers aren’t made of cheap materials and aren’t even trailers really, but detached condos. They gleam with high-end finishes and portable gardens. There are no telephone and electrical wires invading the pristine landscape. The only humming is that of the peaceful residents, singing praises to Mother Earth. Okay, maybe the singing is a tad too utopian, but the rest of the fantasy is becoming a reality. The condominium commune is really Sustain Design Studio’s vision of an “eco-suburb.”
Planet Oz first spoke to Thomson about the miniHome two years ago. The world’s first self-sufficient mobile home was set to begin construction that spring.
As a boy fantasizing about spaceships and lunar landers, he began wondering how he could meld space craft and the common house. He envisioned a house independent of a residential infrastructure and asked himself, “what would this do for the earth?” “It’s about the clarity and simplicity of the whole idea,” says Thomson. “Any house is complicated by the fact that it’s attached to so many different systems. It’s attached to the gas lines and electrical lines and the cable, telephone, water, sewer mains. If you picked up the house with a giant claw and pulled it out of the earth you’d be snapping and popping a million different lines.”
Thomson’s first step in his quest to create the absolute minimal living space was to live in a tent in downtown Toronto for one year. A student at Ryerson University at the time, he began his experiment as a thesis, but the project soon led him to a lifestyle of ultimate simplicity. He staked his land in the backyard of a supporter in January and set out to prove he could live and function in society outside of the common house, with next to nothing. “The tent was about saying (conventional) houses are really expensive and really complicated and really attached to an infrastructure, which is questionable in terms of its environmental integrity and uses a tonne of power that’s connected to nuclear and coal reserves.” With only an arctic sleeping bag, laptop computer, solar panel, cell phone and a water supply, Thomson continued to ponder sustainable living. “You slowly learn what you need to bridge your expectations of living in society, holding a job, being well-groomed, being able to communicate with friends and not being considered insane, like unibomber style.”