The dream of a home in the suburbs with a white picket fence is changing. Between housing crises and homelessness, mounting debt and downsizing, home ownership has become increasingly less attainable. The tiny house movement is a direct response to these forces, with cities and designers asking whether micro dwellings can address pressing issues or if they are glorifying unhealthy living conditions.
Micro Housing: The Latest Architecture and News
According to the United Nation’s “The World’s Cities in 2018”, it is estimated that, “by 2030, urban areas are projected to house 60 percent of people globally and one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants.” Also, between 2018 and 2030, it is estimated that the number of cities with 500,000 inhabitants or more is expected to grow by 23 percent in Asia. China, as the largest economy in Asia, with a GDP (PPP) of $25.27 trillion, is expanding rapidly, both economically and demographically.
With more and more migrant workers coming into the bigger cities in China, it has become increasingly difficult for workers to find an affordable place to live. Some people decide to move away from urban centers and bear with the lengthy commute time, while others are seeking creative design solutions to transform their home into a tiny, functional space to meet their daily needs.
Since the beginning of time, a HOME has continued to be an entity that is intimate to all living beings on the planet. Apart from being a physical shelter for humans and their daily lives, a home forms a distinct, intimate connection with its users.
Today, across the globe, we are experiencing a rise in densely populated urban areas, along with a lack of land resources to provide sufficient housing for the masses. This phenomenon has given rise to a new movement of Micro-Housing; one that commands the idea of simple but inventive living in today’s urban areas.
Jacob Witzling may lack formal architectural training, but his passion for nature and cabin architecture has provided him with all the tools needed to both design and construct idyllic living spaces. Witzling’s cabins can be found throughout the United States; these structures are often sequestered to the woods, providing a remote escape from urban centers and suburban sprawl.
Witzling’s interest in cabins began at the age of 16. His father, an architect and engineer, provided him with a preliminary exposure to the world of designing and building. “I needed to exist in the woods, and even though I had never built anything other than a blanket fort, I knew that my passion to create would be sufficient,” says Witzling. “I remember pouring over the pages of my dad’s favorite book, 'Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art.' I would gaze at the pictures from inside my blanket fort and daydream about building one of my own.”
The ninth Hello Wood International Summer University and Festival has taken place at Hello Wood’s campus in the Hungarian countryside. As part of the week-long Cabin Fever program, students from 65 universities around the world were given the opportunity to build seven contemporary timber cabins in a nomadic, lush countryside, mentored by international architects.
As a result of the week-long effort, the rural area was transformed into a cutting-edge working village featuring cabins on wheels, cabins on stilts, and multi-story homes. The festival is dedicated to the Tiny House Movement, which “makes cabins which give urban dwellers the chance to get away from it all for a while.”
London’s first Antepavillion officially opened to the public last weekend, kicking off an annual series of experimental structures set to explore alternative ways of living in the city. Designed and built by emerging studio PUP Architects, the proposal beat out 128 other entries as the winner of a competition held by the Architecture Foundation. Calling for proposals that engaged with issues of sustainability and recycling, PUP's design, dubbed H-VAC is built using prefab elements made in-house by a team of volunteers. The pavilion's tongue-in-cheek appearance resembling an air duct is a playful subversion of planning legislation, exploiting loopholes for mechanical rooftop equipment to be built without planning permission.
Bee Breeders have selected winners of the Hong Kong Pixel Homes competition, seeking to address the pressures of expanding populations and urban growth on existing housing markets. The competition asked for solutions which would reconsider our entrenched conventional forms of housing with “formal, technological, and material strategies predicated on modularity and repetition”. In announcing the competition results, the jury applauded the exploration of density, amenity and public/private adjacency in the winning schemes, recognizing their consideration for novel approaches to domestic culture and tradition.
The competition winners, including noted ‘Green’ and ‘Student’ schemes, are set out below.
In major cities around the world, buildable land is at a premium. At the same time, a continued trend of urban migration has led to a shortage of houses, inspiring a wealth of innovative solutions from architects and designers. Swedish firm Manofactory have literally taken housing solutions to a new level, questioning why we need to build at ground level at all.
Many animals, including birds, build their nests in trees, under roof tiles or in rock crevices above the ground. Humans already build simple nesting boxes for birds to live in, causing Manofactory to question why we can’t build nesting boxes for ourselves – a simple house with several rooms, windows, and climate protection. Pointing to the numerous cliff walls in cities across northern Scandinavia and elsewhere, Manofactory have designed the Nestinbox – a small wooden house with a steel structure to be mounted on sheer cliff faces.
[In New York] there’s this math problem: 1.8 million small households and only one million suitable apartments. – Mimi Hoang, principal of nArchitects
Last year, nArchitects released a trailer that teased the development of their winning adAPT NYC entry, Carmel Place (formerly known as My Micro NY). The competition sought to address the need for small household apartments in New York City. Now in a newly released video, the full story of the city’s tallest modular tower comes together in smooth timelapse to a dainty piano soundtrack.
Following a successful pilot launch in Boston and $1 million in venture backing, a startup company called Getaway has recently launched their service to New Yorkers. The company allows customers to rent out a collection of designer “tiny houses” placed in secluded rural settings north of the city; beginning at $99 per night, the service is hoping to offer respite for overstimulated city folk seeking to unplug and “find themselves.” The company was founded by business student Jon Staff and law student Pete Davis, both from Harvard University, out of discussions with other students about the issues with housing and the need for new ideas to house a new generation. From that came the idea of introducing the experience of Tiny House living to urbanites through weekend rentals.
Inspired by the notion of micro-housing and the powerful rhetoric of the Tiny House movement, initiatives like Getaway are part of a slew of architectural proposals that have emerged in recent years. Downsizing has been cited by its adopters as both a solution to the unaffordability of housing and a source of freedom from the insidious capitalist enslavement of “accumulating stuff.” Highly developed and urbanized cities such as New York seem to be leading the way for downsizing: just last year, Carmel Place, a special micro-housing project designed by nARCHITECTS, was finally completed in Manhattan to provide studio apartments much smaller than the city’s current minimum regulation of 400 square feet (37 square meters). Many, including Jesse Connuck, fail to see how micro-housing can be a solution to urban inequality, yet if we are to judge from the early success of startups like Getaway, micro-architecture holds widespread public appeal. Isn’t user satisfaction the ultimate goal of architecture? In that case, it’s important to investigate the ingenuity behind these undersized yet often overpriced spaces.
This opinion-piece is a response to Nick Axel’s essay Cloud Urbanism: Towards a Redistribution of Spatial Value, published on ArchDaily as part of our partnership with Volume.
In his recent article, Nick Axel puts forward a compelling argument for the (re)distribution of city-space according to use value: kickball trophies and absentee owners out, efficient use of space in. Distributing urban space according to use certainly makes sense. Along with unoccupied luxury condos that are nothing more than assets to the 1% and mostly empty vacation apartments, expelling (rarely accessed) back-closets to the suburbs frees more of the limited space in cities for people to actually live in.
Permitting travel on a budget, the architects of Juust have designed a compact "Travelbox" that consolidates all the essentials - bike, bed, table, chair and storage. Beautifully constructed from wood and clad in aluminum, the clever arrangement brings the comfort of home to wherever life may lead you.
"In its closed position it is rigid, efficient, and ready to endure the inevitable bumps of international travel. Upon arrival the Travelbox can be unfolded to instantly transform your new abode into a comfortable home," says Juust.
With floor areas clocking in at as little as 260 square feet, My Micro NY housing units by nARCHITECTS are the latest singles-oriented housing option to enter the New York rental market. The modular units will be fabricated at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for stacking in Kips Bay this spring, and are projected to welcome their first inhabitants by the end of 2015.
Current New York city zoning and density rules set a minimum apartment floor area of 400 square feet, yet this regulation was waived for My Micro NY in the interests of creating more affordable housing. An inflated rental market has long posed issues for those seeking housing in the city, particularly singles and students with tight budgets. My Micro NY will create 9 stories and 55 individual apartments, whose features include 9 and 10 foot ceiling heights, Juliette balconies, and concealed storage space.
A look inside, after the break.
For twenty-four hours only (until 5:59PM EST February 15th), ArchDaily readers have been given the exclusive opportunity to watch the documentary, MICROTOPIA, in its entirety, for free.
The film is a provocative look at the global trends of micro-housing, downsizing, and living off-grid. As the film-makers put it: "In an age of increasing population and technological gains, today’s mobile society has resulted in a demand, or perhaps a dream, for portable dwellings and dwellings in new settings and situations. Microtopia explores how architects, artists and ordinary problem-solvers are pushing the limits to find answers to their dreams of portability,flexibility – and of creating independence from “the grid.”[...] On the sidewalk, on rooftops, in industrial landscapes and in nature we will see and feel how these abodes meet the dreams set up by their creators."
Miss your 24-hour window? MICROTOPIA is available to rent for $3.99 on Vimeo. You can also check out the trailer after the break.
An awesome documentary that somehow didn't fall on our radar in time to be included in our "40 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2014," MICROTOPIA is an in-depth look at fascinating, provocative micro-dwellings and the people who design/live in them.
MICROTOPIA is usually available to rent for $3.99 from Vimeo, BUT ArchDaily readers are receiving an exclusive offer to stream the documentary - absolutely free - for 24 hours only. So make sure to tune in from 6pm EST on February 14th to 5:59PM EST February 15th for this one-time opportunity.
For more about MICROTOPIA, check out the awesome trailer above, and read more information on the doc, after the break.
Seizing on the current trend for 'micro-apartments' in cities such as New York, Fast Company has an interesting profile (including some great photos) of the Nakagin Capsule Tower, the 1972 Japanese building, one of the first (and still one of the most extreme) examples of small-plan living. The article explores both the successful and unsuccessful elements of the design, such as the difficult maintenance and non-openable windows, as well as the ongoing battle for preservation since the residents voted to replace the tower with a conventional building. You can read the full article here.
In the early 20th century rooming houses and residential hotels with small bedrooms and shared bathrooms were the norm of city life: they provided cheap, day-to-day housing near downtown areas (where affordable food and entertainment was abundant). However, a tide of well-intentioned health and safety regulations in the 50s and 60s led cities to essentially ban this type of housing across the United States.
In an article for the Slate, the director of the Sightline Institute, Alan Durning, suggests that this was one of the most misguided legislations ever implemented in American cities: instead of enforcing higher quality housing for cities’ lower earning peoples, it has instead left them stranded, with fewer and fewer affordable housing options.
More after the break...