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Matthew Teague

Moving buildings are considered a bad thing. Modes of failure are expressed by 'movement', and the average homebuyer has been imbued with a pathological terror of the word 'subsidence'. But if the aforementioned movement is intentional and benign, we look upon it as an entirely different attribute.

Bits of buildings have always moved.

Windows and doors are the obvious offenders, but in vernacular working buildings movement was often a prerequisite of the functionality of the building as a whole.

Windmills, watermills and oast houses all use rotational forces to power or ventilate the internal workings. Perhaps due to some craving for a building to have a historical pivot around which to entertain guests at dinner, the demand for these older structures as housing has become insupportable.

This, combined with the altogether more laudable sustainability movement, has created a generation of buildings with moving parts that also have to do with power and ventilation. I am referring to the wind generator and the wind cowl (à la Bluewater and BedZed). These things are recognisable as utile pieces of architecture, and they are also recognisable as throwbacks to an age before electricity. There is a kind of self-sufficiency in buildings that move; a theme more than adequately explored by Archigram's Walking City.Now the idea of having a living pod that can be decanted from city to city, always locating on an identical docking station, is embodied by the M House, Tim Pyne's take on the caravan.

It is a fairly short walk from the proposition that we should all live in totally mobile houses in flexible, sustainable communities to visions of a post-urban society, where place is defined by the location of food and water, and residents move on come the rainy season. Those of us unlucky enough not to have bought into the elite mobile stratum of society stay in the cities.

Perhaps the point of movement in a building is that it should have a purpose other than just the ability to relocate. Relocation - moving on - is the preserve of either the very wealthy or the very poor, driven by fashion or necessity.Moving parts are the expression of co-existence, working with the prevailing conditions in order to become more sustainable. If ever there was a good example of looking backwards to go forwards

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