People marvel at the final digital renderings and physical representations created by architects and architecture students. Rarely, however, does the public get get to see the study models that are an essential part of the design process – even rare still: a finished product clearly based on a mistake that was made. This remarkable project was borne out of an error in the model-making process that became a real-life building opportunity.

A student of?Pouya Khazaeli Parsa thought building a dome was fairly straightforward, and started creating one with full-length poles arcing up toward the center and back down along the opposite edge. Of course, there was a problem: with structural members so thick (magnified at miniature scale) the overlaps started to twist and torque the pure hemispherical shape desired.

Instead of starting over, the student finished the model – the dynamic form was surprisingly compelling, and provided a shell-like opening along one end. In essence, the slightly off-kilter shape became a combination of dome and conch shell. The real-life application featured here for domestic retreat huts in Iran is remarkably cheap and simple (requiring only a few people, two days and less than a thousand dollars).

Bamboo provides the structural framework, remaining alive and flexible during construction (hence the green in the images). Prefab metal gas pipes at the base hold the top and bottom of each element fixed in relative position while negating the need for a fixed foundation (and thus making even the finished pieces mobile).

Cropped rice stems for the exterior cladding provide sufficient weather protection at likewise low cost. On a hot day, they dry up and shrink, letting wind naturally ventilate the interior; on a cold and rainy day, the moisture makes the fronds expand and thus rain resistant.