In the late 1980s, Stephane Malka was a graffiti artist in Paris. Now an architect, he’s pioneering what he calls “graffitecture” or hip hop architecture–temporary buildings propped up on blank walls in vacant lots, designed to redefine how people think of housing and public space.
His latest design, called the Bow-House, is a precarious-looking new house in Heerlen, the Netherlands. Propped up on scaffolding in a public square, it’s made from salvaged windows from former houses in the area, which Malka rearranged in homage to the hip hop music that inspires him.
“I consider myself a sampler, like the machines used in electronic and hip hop to create a loop, adding layers of sounds until you find the right track,” he says.
The house is free for anyone to use. “The Bow-House by definition is an open house for all to share,” Malka explains. “We’ve come to see that it’s used more as a literal extension of public space components–as the bench or the sidewalk you could sit on, or a square where you’d have a date, with the plus of feeling like home.”
It’s designed in part to make people feel more comfortable in the city square. “Public places, specifically in Heerlen, are sometimes stone cold places with no uses or functions other than just passing by,” Malka says. “Bow-House is an opportunity to have a common space to warmly meet.”
Once visitors climb up a ladder to enter the house, they can eat dinner in a tiny dining room, sit out on a grassy rooftop patio, or even take a nap in a bed. By stripping down the idea of housing to the idea of shelter–and making that available for everyone to share–Malka wants people to reconsider what housing means, and what he calls the “commodification of construction.”
The project avoided meeting any building codes because it was classified an “architectural installation.” It may be in place for a year.
He plans to continue building more of the art installations, all inspired by the decade he spent as a graffiti artist. “It’s linked to spots where graffiti writers mostly paint, in the neglected spots of the city,” he says. “Being a vandal, a writer, myself for more than 10 years–I started in 1987–I came to realize that the spots I’ve used for all those years were very interesting urbanistically–the rooftops, the blind walls, underneath the bridges.”
A new book called Le Petit Pari(s) shares more of his designs.