Tag Archives: John Tolhurst

Pop Up Cottages

As we welcome our newest associate John Tolhurst to the Ecotect Architect team, we are learning more about his latest research, which all started on a trip to Darwin last year.

For this trip, John was part a specially chosen team asked to determine whether a technology centre could be created to address remote Indigenous health challenges across Australia’s tropical north. The approach for the health research centre would be to focus on preventative health technologies that allow communities to improve their overall health and well-being. It was widely recognised that housing is probably the most needed technology for healthy living because of the widespread overcrowding in many remote communities.

From that study flowed an architectural research goal: Could an appealing building be created that would be completed in a factory, shipped to site to be erected into a small accommodation unit by a single person, in a day, and without special equipment? The other challenge would be that they wanted this building to not be a converted sea container or a low-spec mining donga. Instead, could it be a net-zero building and be deployed at a fraction of the cost of the usual methods?

The funny thing was that John thought it could and a year later, after developing and testing his solution, it is gaining interest across regional Australia. The solution uses a 500kg capacity hoist motor and cable to both lower a folded floor system and to then raise the roof. Revealed inside is a fully fitted out bathroom and kitchen – with electrics and plumbing already complete and ready to go. To do this means the systems must be tested before being shipped.

According to John, the vision is that after putting the building up, it rewards you with your afternoon cup of tea. His ‘pop up’ cottages can be implemented in a range of scenarios and settings at a fraction of the cost that would normally accompany these types of developments.


Prototype building during development




Internal view showing kitchen and bathroom area on right

Ecotect Architects Welcomes John Tolhurst

Well known for numerous inventions of mainly architectural designs, Richard Buckminster Fuller was an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor and futurist. Fuller decries specialization as the enemy of synergy and proposes a reframing of culture that could “get all of humanity to educate itself swiftly enough to generate spontaneous social behaviors that will avoid extinction.”

Buckminster Fuller’s Manifesto for the Genius of Generalists

Although he may not be Buckminster Fuller, Ecotect Architects is pleased to welcome John Tolhurst as an associate, bringing his multidisciplinary studies and consulting experience to provide a broad generalist base to our team. John’s several achievements in community-based research and analysis, business planning, industrial design, innovation and entrepreneurship are notable and is a welcome addition to our line-up of original thinkers.

First studying Architecture, John also stepped into anthropology as a means to better understand a building’s relationship with culture, graduated with a Visual Arts second major, and then worked with Fitzroy Robinson Architects in London, including in its CAD development arm to better connect the emerging technology with the various project teams.

In Australia, John then completed an MBA and helped in the formation of many Centres of Excellence in Perth, working with Dr Doug McGhie and Science Matters. Resuming his design endeavours, he developed and patented a re-engineered bicycle that would go on to set the 12-hour and 24-hour world records, among others.

John’s role in Ecotect Architects is to support the use of lightweight building materials with high insulative value in particular projects, including those where a net-zero carbon impact is targeted. In this way, he hopes to help society ‘do more with less’, to use Fuller’s words.

His current research involves plans for an easily erected building to provide remote accommodation. Be sure to check back as we keep you updated with its progress.

John Tolhurst’s patented bicycle sets the record for the fastest woman crossing of America