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'Power of small spaces': Architect designs a 1 BHK home in a autorickshaw

D. Krishna Prasad
·7-min read

Architecture has always been one of the creative and innovative industries that have evolved over time. From creating designs to project planning to finalize structural changes, an architect converts an empty public space into something useful. Their works not only jack up the panoramic view of the surroundings but also opens the door for quality living. Best of all, they add definition to the place.

Now if you may recall some of the greatest works by architects, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, was built in 2010 and designed by Adrian Smith. This sky-high tower stands at a height of 2,717 feet with 160 floors. Lotus Temple, New Delhi India was designed by Iranian-American architect Fariborz Sahba. The temple opened its doors for the people in 1986. At least 4.5 million people visit this incredible place every year.

Infosys Pune was designed by an Indian Architect Hafeez Contractor. Some of the great projects of Hafeez include 23 Marina Tower, DY Patil Sports Stadium in Mumbai, etc. All these aesthetically stunning structures, buildings, and spaces are designed by architects.

Likewise, there is one young architect from Namakkal, Chennai, Arun Prabhu N. G, also the founder of The BILLBOARDS Collective who has built the unthinkable - a 1bhk mobile house atop a rickshaw. His works have shown us how well small spaces can be utilized to the fullest.

Rear axonometric view of SOLO 01
Rear axonometric view of SOLO 01

Speaking to Yahoo India, Arun Prabhu has shared the whole story about this amazing mobile house cum rickshaw. Along with that, he also revealed some of the upcoming projects he is currently working on.

SOLO: 01

Coming from a humble family, Arun’s father GunaSekaran runs an electrical shop, while his mother Gomathi is a housewife. Ever since Arun was young, he was very curious and inquisitive about architecture & design and its engineering in general. Today he runs his design firm called The BILLBOARDS Collective that focuses on various aspects associated to design.

Front View of SOLO 01
Front View of SOLO 01

The idea all started when... Arun was researching two different topics: The Narikuravars (A nomadic tribe whose way of living and occupation required them to be on a constant move) and The Slums Of India. Amid his research, he stumbled about their similarities between the two groups of people, Narikuravars and the people dwelling in the slums, and their difficulty with regards to portability and space, respectively.


He further researched on similar lines and found that most of their dwelling units had been built under emergency requirements. Also, it lacks planning and awareness about the small-scale architecture and how to utilize the space efficiently, and this eventually has worsened the typical problems in slums. Looking at the living style of the two groups, Narikuravars and Slums, inspired Arun to take their dwelling size as a nub to draft his proposition of building something inimitable in small spaces.

Perspective view of SOLO 01
Perspective view of SOLO 01

This gave Arun the calling to start a project called “SOLO: 01”, an attempt to throw light on the underutilization of space and how small-scale architecture could resolve the issue if it comes into the picture. “I was traveling to various places for my research to understand more about my subjects such as slum housing and the nomadic community's way of living with respect to space required for this design SOLO.01. One such research topic is TOD ( Transit Oriented Development) for which we had developed Solo 01”, says Arun.

He added, “This idea was first conceptualized in my undergraduate days, the design kept developing at the back of my mind for many years”. The whole Solo 01 project was self-funded by Arun himself. The Solo 01 module cost him INR 1lakh and the second-hand rickshaw of INR 45,000.

Side view of SOLO 01
Side view of SOLO 01

It took around 10 months for Arun to design, prototype, and execute the SOLO:01 mobile house atop a rickshaw. The SOLO:01 is currently not for sale. He further says “We are in the middle of designing further modules which would be more space and energy-efficient than the first. We have also applied for the design registration and it's in the process.”



Arun has also shared what’s inside the SOLO 01. It’s a pragmatic design of a compact 6'x6' portable/detachable housing that can accommodate a solo individual. This mobile house is best for travelers, artists, small-scale vendors, and anyone who wants to accommodate for a living, as it includes everything a normal 1bhk has, like kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, toilet, foyer in a 6'x6' structure.

Interior closeup view of SOLO 01
Interior closeup view of SOLO 01

The SOLO 01 also has a terrace area with a 600-watt solar panel, a 250 ltr water tank, and a lounge space with shade on the terrace. The vehicle runs with petrol and the appliances inside of the house run on solar. There is no specialized mechanism to operate the vehicle, it works the same way as a normal auto. “As for the number of occupants, this was primarily designed for one individual, hence the name Solo: 01”, he states.

Memorable Moment

To make this amazing vehicle, Arun has gone through a lot of challenges, especially with design. “There were a lot of design challenges that I had to overcome due to its spatial constraints and constant movement, which, in a way helped the structure to become more efficient”, avers the Chennai architect. However, despite the obstacles, his inconceivable work has caught the attention of a great Indian personality, business tycoon, and Chairman of Mahindra and Mahindra, Anand Mahindra.

Interior of SOLO 01
Interior of SOLO 01

Anand Mahindra took to Twitter and shared Aurn’s works quoting, “Apparently Arun did this to demonstrate the power of small spaces. But he was also on to a larger trend: a potential post-pandemic wanderlust & desire to be ‘always mobile.’ I’d like to ask if he’ll design an even more ambitious space atop a Bolero pickup. Can someone connect us?”.

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Arun felt exhilarated to know that his works are recognized by powerful businessmen like Mahindra. On that note, he contentedly replied: “I am incredibly happy and proud that my work has caught his attention and his tweet about it has added to the exposure for the project as a whole and also helped to get the awareness about space utilization to the masses.” Later, Arun also received a call from Anand Mahindra’s office and they are currently in the initial talks on how to take this forward.

Upcoming Projects

Moving forward, Arun Prabhu has quite a few projects in the pipeline, out of which the following are a few that are in progress.

Rearview of CHAIGAADI
Rearview of CHAIGAADI

CHAIGAADI: The World's tiniest tea stall at just 1.5sq.ft, commissioned for a brand called Chaikahani. A tiny box that opens up to an entire tea stall with all the required amenities and spaces that a cafe should have. A product that redefines the way we drink chai. Best of all, it gives a ‘cafe-like experience’ like never before.

Closeup of Chaigaadi
Closeup of Chaigaadi It’s a 24/7 Live digital installation. A website ( designed like a billboard that allows anyone to post anything they want to emphasize the epitome of democracy in design and poster culture. It depicts who we are and what we are in the framework of a bigger picture.

Top perspective view of CHAIGAADI
Top perspective view of CHAIGAADI

SAMADHI: A Thanatological translation of spaces. It is a research project that deals with architecture among the urban dead. A design that narrates the synergetic relationship of experiences within a person's life after their death with architecture being the metaphor of the subject. It redefines the existing typology of these spaces that could change and adapt to one's feelings and provide psychological comfort to the people when they lost their loved ones. The harmonious relationship of art and architecture is layered on with a new dimension of death as an overlay.

All the images are sourced with permission from Arun Prabhu.

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