Institute without Boundaries

World House Year 1

We have inherited a large house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together… All inhabitants of the globe are now neighbors.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the first year of the World House Project, we developed a “System Patterns in Housing” Timeline (or “the World House Timeline) that identified twelve systems, from construction to identity, and significant trends throughout history and cultures. The team also examined the under-lying philosophy, principles, and conceptual prototypes for next generation accessory living units to infill urban and suburban areas.

The Institute began a tradition of active participation in community innovation and socially responsible design through charrettes. The first World House Interdesign conference brought together 154 participants from around the world to explore and develop solutions for challenges related to housing and water for clients such as Downsview Park, Waterfront Toronto, the Town of Port Perry, and the Mount Dennis community.

Publications & Tools

World House Matrix
System Patterns in Housing
System Home: First Year Student Essays from the World House Project
100 Houses Book
Common Homes Book
Matrix Cards
Watershed: The World House Guide to Designing Water’s Future
Idea Scrapbook

World House Timeline

Download the WH Timeline >>>Rather, some housing types, pioneered by humanity’s earliest cultures, have persisted to this day and have remained largely unchanged. These forms, developed by hunter-gatherer and nomadic societies are examples of sustainable, well-strategized solutions to cultural and environmental needs.The history and experience of all people, from all cultures and time periods, can inform modern housing design.Timeline Organization
The World House Project has identified twelve systems that are needed in every home, regardless of location and culture.
What is it?
The capacity to design our future is informed by an understanding of how we have designed our past. The World House Timeline explores the history of housing in order to understand how our conceptualization of home has influenced the design of the house through time.We do not intend this to be a comprehensive history of housing design. Rather, the timeline identifies trends in housing and explores the impact of worldviews and cultures of different times and places.While inherently linear in structure, the timeline does not have to be read this way. We do not mean to convey a sense that history, the home, and this timeline, are stories of triumphant progressivism. Rather, some housing types, pioneered by humanity’s earliest cultures, have persisted to this day and have remained largely unchanged. These forms, developed by hunter-gatherer and nomadic societies are examples of sustainable, well-strategized solutions to cultural and environmental needs.The World House timeline examines each of these twelve systems, from construction to identity, and maps out significant, related trends while telling a story of how dwellings have evolved over time.We approach the home as a system of systems, striving for a holistic view of design in housing. Through the timeline, the home can be understood as it is shaped by system innovations related to location, purpose, and form.How Do I Read it?
This timeline can be read horizontally, as an evolution, and vertically, which demonstrates integration of the systems.


The team conducted an international survey asking participants what they like and dislike about their places of residence. Responses came from over 32 countries, sharing stories that cross terrain, housing typologies and income classes. Together, their sentiments intertwine to give a better understanding of the true essence of home.


Green Building Festival, October 2006
The team used this exhibition as an opportunity to receive feedback from industry experts on their research proposals, with an interactive video, scrapbook and photo shoot.Let’s Talk About Love
A student art exhibition and fundraiser was held in the Institute space with musical and artistic performances and installations.Interior Design Show, February 2007
The team premiered the World House Matrix research, exhibited on a wall system constructed from recycled cardboard. The Institute received acclaim from the Toronto Star for its booth design and the Matrix concept.
Doors Open, May 2007
At this event, the team asked visitors to imagine, play and create alternative options to the tradi-tional home, using magnetic poetry and drawing templates.World House Living Model 1.0, June 2007
The World House Living Model, Version 1.0 is a 256 square foot metaphor for home that encourages audiences to question their choices and investi-gate the best practices for our individual and collective futures.Digital Home
This project looked at a hypothetical world house design scenario 25 years in the future based on the life of a person born today. The house illustrated intelligent design solutions for the digital home.


Habitat for Humanity, Sept 2006
The team collaborated with architect Dean Goodman to redesign social housing units for Habitat for Humanity.Harney, October 2006
The team produced concepts for a family pavilion intended to revitalize an abandoned ravine space at the back of a North Toronto property.
Download Report (PDF) >>
Marotta, March 2007
The team produced concepts for an addition to a Scarborough residence intended to accommodate the evolving needs of a family of four.
Download Report (PDF) >>Architectural Technology Student Collaboration, March 2007
In celebration of the College’s 40th anniversary, twelve teams of third-year architectural technology students partnered with an Institute team to design a 400 square foot living space that could be placed in laneways, on rooftops or in suburban backyards.
Download Report (PDF) >> World House Interdesign, June 2007
At this ICSID (International Council for Societies of Industrial Design) anniversary event, designers from around the world collaborated on four local, urban design.
Download Report (PDF) >>
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About the IWB

The Institute without Boundaries is a Toronto-based studio that works towards collaborative design action and seeks to achieve social, ecological and economic innovation. To learn more click here.

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