Coda: Folding Studio 

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[Originally published 1st quarter 2006 in arcCA 06.1, “Imbedded Knowledge”]


Folding Studio, folded at left, unfolded at right, photos by McGlashan Architecture.

Author Kate McGlashan is the mother of a baby boy, a nurse-midwife, and the office manager for McGlashan Architecture. Perhaps her most valuable skills were acquired as the program director of a summer camp in Washington State, where living in a teepee prepared her for the permanent remodeling project that is marriage to an architect.


And you thought reappropriating the mobile home was hip. Scott McGlashan of McGlashan Architecture has designed and built a mobile office.

For his master’s thesis at the University of California-Berkeley, McGlashan looked to marry design and construction by enabling the architect to design on-site. His background in carpentry, cabinetmaking, and boatbuilding came in handy as he created a collapsible, portable studio that fits through a standard doorway, yet expands to 8′ x 11′ x 9′ high. Once occupied, its flaps, folds, and openings adjust to keep the architect comfortable in varying seasonal and weather conditions— serving as a tool for engaging and measuring a place.

During its creation, McGlashan explored the interaction between the processes of design and construction.

Scott McGlashan in the Folding Studio, photo by Tim Culvahouse.

However, McGlashan says, “On the one hand, a folding structure is such a tight system, with everything dependent on everything else, that it wasn’t ideal for a design-build investigation. On the other hand, I only had four and a half months, so I did a fair amount of design on the fly.”

McGlashan used a stressed-skin construction, in which 1/8-inch plywood is glued to a Styrofoam insulation core for the walls and to cardboard honeycomb for the floor.

After a few gigs on job sites, the mobile studio is staying put for now. It is deployed full-time in Berkeley as the headquarters for McGlashan’s emerging architecture practice.




The AIACC represents the interests of more than 11,000 architects and allied professionals in California. Founded in 1944, The AIACC's mission supports architects in their endeavors to improve the quality of life for all Californians by creating more livable communities, sustainable designs and quality work environments. Today, The AIACC is the largest component of the National AIA organization.

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