TINY HOUSES
HOMES FOR A SIMPLE HUMANITY

by Carlos Risco August 2016 MUSIC Read in PDF format N11/2016
TINY HOUSES A new honesty is coming to architecture at the hands of ecology: small personal homes for living a spartan life. The most elementary does not need space, because one’s existence can be reduced to the incidental. And there find happiness. Even if it’s in 15m2.

SOBRIETY, SIMPLICITY, humility. The values of Socratic philosophy seem to make a return to a hyper-excited consumer society right in the middle of the financial delirium, where successive property bubbles have made housing an unreachable luxury. Some people, such as the designer Jay Schafer, have returned to the texts of Socrates and to the philosophy of Zen to form a movement that embraces simple homes, some barely cabins that recreate everything that life requires without the need for accessories. From his hands come Tiny Houses, small wood cabins that recreate the simple life of one of the most renowned philosophers for life lived intensely, Thoreau, designed in his cabin in Walden Pound, Concord, Massachusetts (USA). These Tiny Houses inspire decorators and architects with an essential idea: a return to the simple life. In an area of less than 15m2, one of these cabins provides a space to sleep, another for cooking and a small space to work or read. Because of the delicacy of the details, the play between the organic materials such as wood and his predeliction for mobile homes without accessories or excesses, the message goes straight to the heart: we need very little. Just somewhere to take shelter, a bit of food and a bit of love. An intelligent sobriety that fits into each one of these small houses. That said, the size of a standard house in the United States has increased to an average of 230m2 in 2007. P aradoxically, the reality has gradually condemned new generations to the absence of their own home with traditional dimensions. The Katrina Cottages designed by Marianne Cusato in 2005 to remedy the consequences of Hurricane Katrina have been one of the catalysts for this movement, rejecting oversized houses that waste space and energy. Measuring barely 28m2, the energy efficiency of these small cottages, their accessibility, low price and low maintenance brought them into the spotlight. In a post-industrial society where discontent and the revision of the growth system increases in many sectors, Tiny Houses are an answer to the anxiety of consumerism. Moderation, rather than wasteful spending. The luxury of intimacy, rather than the countless square metres. The prowonder of the really essential rather than the technological hubris. The majority of these wood cabins have a rectangular shape which makes one initially think of th em as originating from mobile homes. Many of them follow the simple lines of the American petite bourgeoisie with wooden boards, simple window fittings, cheerful colours such as blue, red and yellow and attractive mini porches that can open out into the open air. It is easy t o fall in l ove with their delicateness, as if they were dolls’ houses for grownups, places in which to imagine or dream, rather than places in which to live. Inside, the small dimensions of the Tiny Houses are reminiscent of the compartmentalised spaces of caravans, a cooking area, an area to read in or work at a computer and an area for sleeping, generally in the mezzanine, under the gable roof. With the publication of her book ‘Not So Big House’, British architect Sarah Susanka covers a trend that was already all over the blogs and social networks. For her, the key was in the quality of the spaces, rather than the features. As the maxim goes: “build better, not bigger”. Susanka concluded that living in an oversized house is an accumulation of waste, effort and energy. An imbalance for nature, and an unnecessary waste of resources and economies. In parallel with the spiritual vision of ridding oneself of all accessory items and taking refuge in a simple shelter, the Tiny Houses bring environmentalism to the forefront, organic homes that permit an honest habitat balanced with an existence that does not harm the environment.

WHERE IS THE LIMIT?

If the barrier of 30m2 was the first limi t, the exciting and daring proposals of the militants of this trend have generated examples of marvellous cabins and shelters that barely measure 10m2. Some examples of the architecture are inspired by the Japanese kyosho jutaku, diminutive houses for young people with limited resources in a country with high demographic pressure and high residential property prices. Those that lead by example have become the apostles of a modest and small scale existence, such as Jay Schafer, whose home makes the most of every nook and cranny, with a shower, washbasin and toilet fitting into an area measuring barely 1m2. Derek Diedricksen has created mini dwellings of between 2m2 and 30m2 using waste materials which barely cost a couple of hundred dollars. His life maxim comes in the form of a question: “Why waste the best part of your life paying for a house that you will barely be ab le to enjoy, as you will be in th e office working to be able to pay for it.” The small and the simple invade reality to reinvent a free existence. No burdens, no mortgages. Each example is an inspiration that generates others in geometric proportion, such as Nick Olson and Lilah Horwitz, who left their jobs to build a cabin from recycled windows in the mountains of West Virginia. And along a similar line comes the future, such as the Ecocapsule, a dwelling-capsule with ecological technology created by the Slovak architects at Nice Architects, which allows you to live anywhere on the planet. Equipped with solar panels, rain water collectors and a wind turbine, it is a fully autonomous shelter with everything necessary to live. The Kleindienst architects have designed a 25m2 floating home, complete with a submerged basement, that allows you to live on the sea. The culture of the small and environmentally friendly is not at odds with luxury when it comes to coverings and technology; small luxury villas on the smallest of scales are appearing which are not lacking in comfort. Questioning the axiom of “the bigger the better”, a new humility is conquering architecture and design, where the necessary and the efficient are triumphing. Because size does matter. And when it is about your own happiness and the environment, less is always more.

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