The home used to be a private escape. With the pull of a curtain, you could seal yourself off from the outside world. But now with the rise of smartphones, Nest thermostats, Kinect cameras, and Amazon Echos, we're always accessible to some extent.
In response, the architectural researchers at Space Caviar and the shelving specialists at Prokoss have created the RAM House. The "RAM" stands for "Radar Absorbent Material." It’s a home architected to selectively block the electromagnetic signals that carry data in and out.
Of course, places like hotels have been actively blocking Wi-Fi signals for years, but what makes the RAM House’s approach different is that it’s controllable. The cone panels can be moved by the home’s inhabitants, closing off the upstairs bedroom from signals much like they’re moving a curtain to block a sidewalk view.
"We began to reflect on what would be a house conceived from scratch to respond to privacy in the 21st century," explains architect Joseph Grima. "By imposing a series of architectural rituals, it invites the inhabitant to become more aware of what’s being broadcast at any given moment, much like a curtain does in a traditional home."
The home’s frame is a steel Faraday Cage—a structure designed to capture electricity and quarantine it inside its frame—though much of the actual signal blocking is handled by a series of carbon cone panels in the structure, which are able to absorb electromagnetic radiation.
The downstairs rooms handle data a bit differently. Each room is divided by a bookcase on a rail. You slide these modules to open up the kitchen, office, library, and the bathroom. When each is opened, signals can come in. Seal the modules together, and they create a sort of bank safe for your data, in which any communications from smart domestic appliances can’t go in or out.
If all of this sounds like paranoia, then you may be missing at least some of the point. The homes of today are already largely constructed around the notion of privacy—our windows are small, our bedrooms have doors—but these constructs are ignorant to invisible data collection of the modern world.
"It’s not a protest against technology," Grima says. "It’s more an attempt to find an equilibrium with technology we coexist with in a home. And to rebalance the power."
The RAM House is on display at the Atelier Clerici in Milan from April 14 to 19.