Small Homes are the Next Big Thing

Just heard a recent interview with ‘Urbanist’ Tommy Honey talking on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon. The topic was micro units. You can listen to the interview here:

As Tommy Honey points out, microacrchitecture is not a new concept and there have been some other recent developments here in New Zealand. The bright young designers at SHAC have been talking about it for a while: . Click here to see some of the great entries from a recent design competition for temporary buildings in Christchurch.

The point of microacrchitecture is not so much clever design to cram more stuff into a smaller space. It’s about remodelling where we live, based on a new definition of our lifestyle. A ‘micro-unit’ for example doesn’t necessarily need a kitchen and certainly doesn’t need a laundry or a garage.

In a vibrant, interconnected, dense new urban environment, a car would be pointless, it would cost effective and convenient to use a laundromat and there would be a plethora of affordable cuisines within the vicinity. If this cityscape also provides cool libraries and cafes with wireless internet and multiple avenues for socialising and entertainment, then there’s another couple of rooms you can lose.

This type of lifestyle wouldn’t be for everyone, but there are some concepts we could all learn from and the underlying philosophy of questioning how much stuff we really need, is a good one.

The tendency for a lot of our building is to place constraints on minimum size. This is pretty ridiculous and it’s also scary how powerless councils are to intervene when a developer slaps a covenant on a piece of land. Quite often these covenants stipulate a minimum floor area for homes built in the sub-division. (The really extreme ones also stipulate the ‘sameness’ of anything from the colour palette of the paint, to the type of letter box required.) Should we be going the other way and stating the maximum allowable house size?