InHouse OutHouse is in business

Architecture alums’ prototype takes up residence in Third Ward home in time for Friday’s open house

Like two Vikings bringing their ship home, Peter Muessig and Jason Fleming lay underneath a Houston house last Friday, pulling, pulling, pulling long-handled winches to complete a long and challenging voyage.

The two graduates of the Rice School of Architecture (RSA) were completing the make-or-break step in their InHouse OutHouse project, in which they gave a heart transplant to a Third Ward row house. The prefabricated unit they designed as a Rice Building Workshop (RBW) project incorporates a full bathroom, air conditioning and heating on the inside and a working kitchen on the outside.

The prototype, the product of months of planning and every minute of their of free time for construction this summer, came together with few hitches Sept. 28 and now sits as part of the home at 3300 Bastrop St. at the corner of Stuart. The home, part of Project Row Houses, will host an open house Oct. 5 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Danny Samuels, an RSA professor in the practice of architecture and RBW director, said the project fits nicely with others in the RSA portfolio, and in fact stands on the same block as Rice’s ZeRow House and the Extra Small (XS) House, both RBW projects. “This is a continuation of a long investigation that we’ve been doing,” Samuels said of the InHouse OutHouse, which fits the “core” theme of many RBW projects. “It’s incredible that these students, even after they graduated, have just gone with this and made sure it happened.”

Muessig, Fleming and their colleague Andrew Daley, all of whom earned Master of Architecture degrees at Rice this year, will be present for the open house after a week of hooking up utilities, replacing exterior siding and cleaning up. While Daley now lives out of state and couldn’t make it for the final installation, the partners had the able on-site assistance of Fleming’s dad, Bob, a Charleston, S.C., contractor.

The InHouse OutHouse was assembled over the summer at RBW’s Third Ward workyard, two blocks from the site. With city inspections done and final touches applied, the unit was lifted via forklift onto a flatbed truck for the short trip and then brought with the same forklift to the side of the house.

The crew pulled chains from the winches to the far side of the unit; then Muessig and Fleming applied 100 percent of the muscle to pull the several-ton InHouse OutHouse along a set of previously installed rails to its destination. The whole process, from arrival to installation, took about two hours – and most of that was spent lining things up.

“The bottom line is that a forklift is not really a precision instrument,” said Fleming, who drove the bouncing beast. “We have to devise a system that will allow us to be a little speedier, but all in all it’s gone a lot more quickly than I thought it would.”

“Once we get the siding back on the house and get it closed in, then it will look just like we imagined it,” Muessig said. “I think the design turned out good, and the move went as well as we could have hoped. We learned a lot from this.”

About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.