The dream of off-the-shelf housing never ceases to engage us. Historically, builders have long worked to standardised plans, buying pattern books and floor plans to speed up the process of getting things done. Well into the modern era, there's still a massive discrepancy between the number of bespoke, architect-designed homes and those designed with a set of bought-in blueprints.

Over the years, we've seen more than a few innovators tap into the distributing power of the internet and the simmering demand for bespoke homes. Paperhouses is the latest such venture, and this time the system has an even more contemporary approach: open source. For the house-builder the hook is compelling; the designs are entirely free, along with a directory of resources (suppliers, contractors, materials) to get your building started.

Set up by Architectural Association trained Joana Pacheco, who also heads up her own studio, UMA, Paperhouses has attracted an impressive list of participating architects, including Chilean studio Panorama (W*172), 2012's RIBA Manser Medal winner Christian Pottgiesser and Slovenians Dekleva Gregorič (W*151). All the studios have worked hard to create modular designs that the buyer can then 'mould to their personalised reality'.

Dekleva Gregorič's design is based around three modular elements, allowing for a structure that can be 'as small as a studio or as large as a hotel'; Pottgiesser has created the 'Dobox', an open-ended project partially generated by the client's responses to a set of standard questions; and Mexican studio Dellekamp has opted for a 'House for Silence' that is designed to absorb and intensify the relationship between site and environment. 'The architects were selected based on their work and philosophy,' says Pacheco. 'We were also looking for diversity in terms of origin.'

Of course, anyone looking for a tailored Paperhouses structure has to bring the site - and its context, views, atmosphere - hence the 'empty vessel' nature of many of the proposals. But Pacheco is positive Paperhouses will score highly among those looking to develop a new design in collaboration with some major architectural talent.

TAGS: RESIDENTIAL ARCHITECTURE