Sliding House by dRMM



London architects dRMM have designed a house with mobile walls and roof that can be moved to cover and uncover parts of the dwelling. Update: this project is included in Dezeen Book of Ideas, which is on sale now for £12.


The house, in Suffolk, England, features a sliding structure that fits over the static main house, guest annexe and greenhouse.


The mobile element, which is 28 metres long and weighs 50 tons, move along rails set into the ground.


As it moves, the sliding element creates shifting outdoor living areas between the static elements as well as altering views, lighting conditions and the sense of enclosure inside the house.


The following information is from the dRMM:



'The Industrial and the Picturesque': A new house with guest annexe and garage for a rural site in Suffolk, East Anglia - a small-holding formerly characterised by bungalow, outbuildings and caravan arranged casually under a big sky.


The stringent local Planning parameters for rural development were accepted by the architect who shares with the client a genuine appreciation of vernacular farm buildings.


After studying alternatives it was agreed to manipulate the local timber framed and clad 'shed' idiom.


The brief was a self-build house to retire to in order to grow food, entertain and enjoy the East Anglia landscape.


The client was both straightforward and sophisticated. The site offered a combination of rolling England and agricultural Holland. These parameters greatly appealed to the international architects interested in systems, materials and unconventional architecture.


The project was designed to be elaborated on and built by the client, an enterprising mathematician and motorcyclist. A client/maker capable of calculating the value of design and of risk.


The outcome is 3 conventional building forms, with unconventional detailing and radical performance. And a big surprise. A 28m linear building of apparent simplicity follows the requisite maximum 5.8m permitted width, 7.2m height is sliced into 3 programmes; 16m house, 5m garage and 7m annexe. The garage is pulled off axis to form a courtyard between slices of building. The 3 fixed buildings are further defined with distinct finishes; red rubber membrane and glass, red and black stained larch respectively.


The linear composition is carefully sited on a level ridge which runs north/south along the north eastern boundary of the site. Thus the choreographed progression from road past annexe and garage, to house, glasshouse and then on to garden are a logical sequence. The bedroom/service half of the house is modular timber cassette construction, the living half a generic curtain wall glazing system. The annexe and garage are constructed from the modular timber cassette system with scandinavian laminated section windows and doors.


The surprise is that these separated forms can be transformed by the fourth and largest element in the group, the 50 ton mobile roof and wall enclosure which traverses the site. This is an autonomous structure; steel, timber, insulation and unstained larch spanning hidden tracks, recessed into a concrete raft on piles. The mobile roof and walls form an insulating structure that passes over the annexe, house and glasshouse, creating combinations of enclosure, open-air living and framing of views according to position.


Each element of the composition is carefully proportioned in relation to frame, window and wall sizes. All elements were prefabricated to be assembled on site, except groundworks, internal joinery fixtures and external surfaces, which were in situ.


Movement is powered by hidden electric motors on 'bogeys' integrated into the wall thickness. Each of the 4 separate motors has its own pair of DC car batteries which are charged by mains or PV solar panels.


The railway tracks are recessed into the external terrace on which the entire composition rests. The 6m gauge 'railway' is further disguised by stone paving joints and a linear drainage gully.


This aligns the whole composition, obviates any roof gutters, and draws the visitor toward the garden beyond. The tracks could be extended in the future should the client wish to build a swimming pool which in turn may need occasional shelter...


Sliding House offers radically variable spaces, extent of shelter, sunlight and insulation. The dynamic change is a physical phenomenon difficult to describe in words or images. It is about the ability to vary or connect the overall building composition and character according to season, weather, or a remote-controlled desire to delight.


Alex de Rijke, Director, dRMM

Client: Private client
Contractors: Self-build with extensive use of local and specialist contractors
Architect: dRMM; Alex de Rijke, Joana Pestana Lages Goncalves
Engineer: Michael Hadi Associates, Rutger Snoek, David Williams, Rob Hart


About dRMM

Alex de Rijke, Philip Marsh and Sadie Morgan founded dRMM, a London-based studio of international architects and designers, in 1995. Now a team of about 20, the practice takes pride in only carrying out work that is innovative, high quality and socially useful. They have a track record of creating extraordinary architecture within the standard constraints of the construction industry. Their radical projects are led by site, client needs, concept and construction, rather than formulaic or style-based decisions. The team defines its approach as economy of means, expressive of use, materials and construction: an architecture of ‘maximalism’.


Posted on Monday January 19th 2009 at 6:15 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Rhino

    What happens when the roof slides off the house all together into the yard?

  • Very tastefully done. Rodger, are you even an architect? Your statements seem to say otherwise. You might stick to leaving comments on websites you have actual pertinent knowledge about and experience with. I AM an architect, and I see a playful idea that has been constructed using common construction methods in completely uncommon ways. To The Client and dRMM, appreciate the response to comments. Very helpful.

    I must say though that there does not seem to be a nexus between the ultimate client interest or dividend and the actual added cost. However, I hope such constraints don’t stop us in the future, either. As we can expect, dRMM continues to challenge the concepts of conventional building practices, architecture and space with this building. Overall, an excellent project.

    One thing: I would have liked to see a site plan or aerial photo illustrating some of the site design concepts though. Maybe even a series of birds eye views of the building forms as the operable enclosure shifts from “zero to sixty”.

  • Congratulations on a great idea combined with straight forward robust Architecture and Engineering.

  • john

    I live down the road from this building and it will never sit well in the Suffolk landscape, it truly looks out of place, it stands on a raised stage, looks ominous and industrial in a very rural setting. Gimmic over aesthetic…… the emperos new clothes comes to mind. A wasted opportunity given the beautiful location and the amount of money that must have been spent.

  • Jesús Casares

    This buildingist fantastic. Very original.

  • Steven

    This is a post for the Client.

    I really love this idea. I am an Architecture student currently in my Honours year. We have to present a building in the uk which has particular interest.

    Firstly would you have any issues with me using the material I have found on the web to form a presentation board and an esaay.

    Secondly- If you are happy for me to continue would you be able to give me some more information about your building.



  • flo

    Well this sure has the delight factor! I’d love to see pictures from the inside looking out. How do the living/entertaining spaces change and how do the moving apertures change the interior’s relationship to the landscape? I’m sure this house has so much more to experience than the (very fine) exterior pictures that I’ve seen so far.

    ps. Roger, you’re comments are very narrow minded for someone critical of convention.

    Bravo to the whole creative team, Client, Architects and Engineers.

  • Apex

    Fukn G E N I O U S !!!

  • one of my favourite projects so far…..simple idea but great merits in it…

  • saja

    it is truly creative idea but I dont think I can live in such a house that may turn into an aeroplan !!

  • As a parent to the client in this enterprise, I have to express my own admiration for the dedication given to his design flair, project management, and many thousands of hours of perfectionist work in detailing and completing both the interior and exterior facets of the building. This was self-build with a difference, and I fear I would have fallen at the first encounter with the planning authorities, not in East Anglia noted for their forward thinking!

  • Seriously amazing photography. Anyone know what camera model and lens was used for these shots?

  • Hi Rose,

    I am not sure I like the design, but what an awesome house. How did this not make the UK newspapers? I mean, I am London designer/builder and I follow my trade mags very closely, and I have not seen this before.

    Another thing I would like to know is, how did Building Regulatiions deal with u-values for insulation ? (Would like to see the calculations.)

    Anyway, thank you for the article. Good photos and to the point.

    Martin, Preisler Construction Ltd.

  • Hey what a fantastic idea about mobile housing. And need to say architect has not even compromised with design. You need the word of appreciation. Well done