With affordable living space getting increasingly hard to find, people are turning to tiny homes and micro apartments. But what do these clever designed roomlets and mobile houses really have to offer? A small, but perfectly formed round-up.

Japanese bonsai architecture

An urban barnacle of glass, concrete, and brickwork, clinging to a neighboring house? A cursory glance might suggest that Japanese architects Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kaijima of Atelier Bow-Wow are simply after a proof of concept on how to squeeze an airy and lightweight structure into the very last unused urban gap. Approaching it all with a touch of humor and lofty ambitions, they call their minimalist interventions and tiny houses “Pet Architecture.” And the result, their combined living and studio space in Tokyo, is very much a vertical exercise in compact construction. Here, half a dozen levels lead all the way up to a micro roof terrace with a great view across the city’s sea of equally tiny homes. And although the neighbors are within spitting distance, you never feel constrained or fenced in. On the contrary: Each level changes the house’s character, with the studio slowly giving way to the private dwelling above. Only two doors – to the lavatory and bedroom – halt the flow. Ready to take minimalism even further? Then take a peek at the delicate micro houses dreamt up by Atelier Mizuishi and their take on an “inverted” Godzilla: mighty small, but just as imposing.

The delicate micro houses of Atelier Mizuishi
The delicate micro houses of Atelier Mizuishi
Photo: Hiroshi Tanigawa
An "inverted" Godzilla: mighty small....
An “inverted” Godzilla: mighty small….
Photo: Hiroshi Tanigawa
Micro apartments Atelier Mizusihi
… but just as imposing.
Photo: Hiroshi Tanigawa
"Pet Architecture" by Atelier Bow-Wow
Atelier Bow-Wow call their minimalist interventions and tiny houses “Pet Architecture”.
(c) Atelier Bow-Wow
Studio space in Tokyo by Atelier Bow-Wow
Their combined living and studio space in Tokyo is very much a vertical excercise in compact construction.
(c) Atelier Bow-Wow

Message in a bottle

At first glance, it’s not easy to tell if Boris Duijneveld is just enjoying a private joke, but his MUD (mobile urban design) project certainly has its charm: His tiny homes are wonderfully laid-back and pretty much the opposite of what home owners spend half their lives paying off. Inside a wooden egg named “Val Ross,” nesting in the sand like a walk-in message-in-a-bottle, time seems to have drawn to a halt. Honey-tinged light seeps through the wooden walls, while a double bed hugs the wall, facing a perspex porthole.

From June till August this year, adventurous souls could explore this and other outlandish micro houses as part of an Amsterdam beach party: Tactile art meets overnight design (85 euros / night, up to two occupants).

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Manhattan transfer

The laws of the market are harsh, but simple: When everyone seeks their luck in the city, things not only get crowded, but also really expensive. It takes unconventional measures to make the most out of what’s available. Following our into prefab Manhattan Micro Apartments, hordes of architects are now feverishly searching for new ways to expand roof space and compress the bare necessities of life in order to squeeze new space between the interstices of going architectural categories. Take Scott Specht and Louise Harpman who came up with a walkable spiral of sorts that exploits even the tiniest corner. Here, the stairs double as storage, while the bed – up on the gallery – remains shielded from guests enjoying some sofa time. A high-end miniature home – and one that leaves a big impression.

Scott Specht and Louise Harpman idea for micro apartment
Scott Specht and Louise Harpman came up with a walkable spiral of sorts that exploits even the tiniest corner.
(c) Specht-Harpman Architects

Into the woods

Leaving civilization behind for an unspoilt existence in nature already enjoys a long tradition. Back in 1854, in his seminal novel “Walden; or, Life in the Woods,” American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau already described in minute detail what it’s like to drop out and while the hours away in a simple log cabin. Switching from the forests of Massachusetts to the south of Finland, the Nido House by Finnish designer Robin Falck updates this tried-and-tested idea for our times. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, this slanted shack with huge windows and an even more generous patio captures our attention and imagination – and all this on a tiny footprint of 90 sq. ft. In a way, the entire micro home is all about the stunning view of southern Finland’s coastal pine forests. At the same time, it does not blend into the landscape, but counters the green surroundings with angular honesty – a statement structure amidst this tranquil patch of almost untouched nature.

On top

It takes some courage to move back in with your folks. This particular variant, however, sounds like a pretty good alternative: Just add an extension to your mother’s house or – more precisely – two floors on top. Commissioned by a musician, Grupo Aranea Architects expanded an old Murcia corner house by a walkable Moebius strip. Here, one long room winds all the way from the entrance via the sleeping area to the living space and, finally, the roof terrace. At the same time, the cubist-edgy architectural style of Casa Lude – with its crenelated windows – embraces both the contrasts and similarities to traditional building styles. Natural lines of sight do not guide the eye to the street below, but all the way to the nearby mountains. The perfect place for practice, composition and contemplation.

Casa Lude outside
Move back in with your folks? Just add two floors on top.
Casa Lude model
One long room winds up all the way from the entrance to the roof terrace,
Casa Lude terrace
The perfect place for practice, composition and contemplation.

Header image: Hiroshi Tanigawa