How small can an apartment be

There is a lot of interest around micro-apartments. Or Micro living. Or small spaces.

There was this video that circulated about what industrial designers seem to be doing to furniture. All furniture is getting the automotive desing treatment – by which I mean that the design and manufacturing of furniture is becoming heaps more sophisticated. When engineerng does furniture then the humble table becomes a tranformable hi-tech gadget. This gadgetisation of furniture is going reasonably unremarked – and you still have sites like Design Milk that push a form of minimalist primitivism. If all furniture becomes gadgetized – then what else are we waiting to see in furniture.

This is Their motto is space reinvented. This is what they say about their philosophy: “Living in smaller – and most importantly – more efficient spaces while also constructing smaller and more energy efficient buildings is the cheapest and most economical way to make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Micro-houses are topical – people seem to be exploring this idea. I belong to a facebook group called – Tiny Houses Australia.

These design retailers have house designs too (Click to see more): Muji House,  Ikea HOUSE

Japanese Micro Homes are a subject worthy of respect:

If you listen to the architect Kengo Kuma, the craze for kyosho jutaku, that distinctly Japanese variant of the micro home, started in the thirteenth century, when the poet Kamo no Chomei penned an essay about the joys of living in a shack called An Account of My Hut.

The Very Small Home: Japanese Ideas for Living Well in Limited
by Azby Brown, Kengo Kuma (Introduction)

The Very Small Home is an inspiring new book that surveys the creative design innovations of small houses in Japan. Eighteen recently built and unusual houses, from ultramodern to Japanese rustic, are presented in depth. Particular emphasis is given to what the author calls the “big idea” for each house-the thing that does the most to make the home feel more spacious than it actually is. Big ideas include ingenious sources of natural light, well thought-out loft spaces, snug but functional kitchens, unobtrusive partitions, and unobstructed circulation paths.

Then we have smart apartments –
In Portland, Iotas’ pre-wired smart apartments let you rent the high-tech life By Jenny McGrath (Read more )

The Smarter Apartment: How to live in the home of the future, right now. By Jillian Goodman

This is Breathe Architecture talking about their project in Brunswick – The COMMONS – Binq is proud to be a major part of The Commons, a sustainable “Green” apartment building in Brunswick Melbourne.

The Press about the Project.

This is the Rem Koolhaas video that everyone is talking about.

A Barcelone Story

A UK Story Plus Someone else cataloging small apartment ideas.

If Cars were built like houses. Check this video out.

Why can’t a house be built as well as a car? An article on TreeHugger.

For the poetic narrative of the tiny space – one navigated by neding to enter Ann Kline’s book is a masterpiece. A Hut of One’s Own: Life Outside the Circle of Architecture By Ann Cline.

The question for us then is what is the future going to look like. For one Urry proposes the notion of ‘copresence’ as what we yearn for. Social media, facebook and snapchat, give us presence – we are in effect with other people all the time. Just not physically. Is this why many young people around the world are not interested in driving, or owning cars? Young people are on the screen a lot – but their screen time is different from watching TV. In fact watching TV is reasonably uncool. This is another practice thats dying.

Were the design people to channel some of these practice of the new kids growing up – we might have a very different way of thinking about how we live.

The Commons took out the washing machine from the apartment and the car park from the block. So we get a laundromat for the apartment (social space?) and cycling+carShare. The generation of social space – unintentionally? – is something I am keen to watch. A colleague described the city as the ‘urban lounge’ (reference?) – where you hang out in the city, and crawl into the apartment to hibernate. These are some pretty interesting ideas – and combined with the ‘smarts’ we are looking at a future of some very neat experimentation.

Update: Re explaining Jaliangan and other such.

I am interpreting Jaliangan (the grill+courtyard) portmanteau word as:
  1. Jali – how the built form talks to the city. As in pinterests here.
  2. Angan – the courtyard or Urban Lounge ( As in this Pinterest here.
So we can chip away at the meanings that are currently situated within the notion of the ‘home’.
  1. Re urban lounge – while provision of ‘amusement’ and ‘social space’ is what it currently refers to I imagine this is already being reinterpreted as we speak. As something much more.
  2. So if all service – is taken out of the apartment, and much of the private functionality of the ‘social’ is provided for outside – aka tent city – then we have a ‘future discourse’. More edgy. Cooking, Washing, watching, making, Playing – are all external to the core.
  3. If the notion of your ‘vault’ or apartment as the ‘personal collection’ is pulled out as a service – reinterpreted locker room? – then we have another component of the meaning re conceptualised.
What then is the meaning (hence brief) of this new artefact – the micro-apartment?
Lets say we leave behind the bed and the toilet as the core of this new notion of the apartment. We then are interested in finding out what is going on in the developments around these two notions of “the sleep” and “the toilet”. These two examples below are a hint of the work going on currently. I went looking for the smart toilet and bed and this is what I found.
Then on smarts:
1. The toilet: Toto is away making networked toilets.
2. The bed: The bed and sleep are getting a slightly different exploration – tough still within the space of the internet of things.

Slatted Constructions

My son grew and grew. So he outgrew his bed. Or his feet began to push against the foot of the bed. Apparently people who are 6 feet and taller (or longer when they lie down!) just let their feet hang out over the end of the bed. So we needed to make a bed where my son could let his feet hang out over the bed. We haven’t asked if his growth spurt would reach those long proportions. Meanwhile he has dismantled his bed – with my help and was set up to occupy the floor. Which worked fine till his eating in bed habit brought ants into this bed.




Images above – my list of timber sizes/ cut sizes, the routered slot for the slats, the slats.

So a new bed was on the cards. A good project for the father-son duo to do something together. The bed took six months – as these projects do. Many trips to Bernie Cook, our local timber merchant, a lot of laughter. I had settled on Tassie Oak to build this project – a local hard wood. I was to discover later that ‘tassie oak’ was just a throw away name for any construction hard wood that arrived at the timber mill. Worked for me. Only this particular hard wood was brittle – which causes a bizarre chipping of the edges with the slightest tap.


Testing the fit of slats into routered slots.


Clamps for the shorter side, tie-down straps for the longer side. Glued joints left for 24 hours to dry.


Every project has to generate infrastructure – as every good economist knows. This is how you build a great nation. Or workshop. I only added a relatively inexpensive Orbital sander ($45) through this project.

The images below are of the final phase of the assembly of the Bed and the final resting place of this piece. My son is behind the camera. He helped with the sanding, and drove me to the hardware stores – three times. The last trip was to pick up the hessian straps which we had left behind on the previous trip.

BnW Bed 2

BnW Bed

Setting slats, to staple on straps.


Slats and straps before I turned them the right side up.

This was me doing a classic slatted structure – I am now interested in exploring slatted structures as a way to make more pieces. Possibly a sofa, a couch, a chair perhaps. I have also recently participated in the dismembering of an antique Chinese table. There were some interesting details there, both of the flow of the legs and the intricacy of the joinery. Details I wish to pursue possibly alongside the Japanese joinery book that is sitting on my table. Maybe “slatted-constructions” is a name worth exploring through making projects. And their allied infrastructure development agendas.

The bed in the room. Corner Details.




My son is doing Photography in school – so the images below explore close ups and depth of field. 






Dad Sad

A Great Migration

I drove my son to his music class today. As we drove I decided to raise the topic of the little Syrian boy who had drowned on the beaches of Turkey. My son knew about the boy. He was angry. I had tears in my eyes. That is not fair. This should not be happening. We can do better. This is not our best moment.

These are faces of the people in the Syrian Refugee Crisis. (Source –

Out of respect for the tiny person that was, I want to stay clear of cynicism.

My son is angry now, about many things – “why do people do war?” he asked plaintively. I let the question hang in the air. This is one that we do – thats problematic at many levels. I was at this moment unable to be the dad who knew everything. I could not bring up Call of Duty that he plays on playstation – where he kills digital people – that would have been a cheap trick. One that I have used countless times. Aloud I said “Men”.

This much is true, its men. A lot else is not true. Why do men go to war? I am not focussing upon the information – the incidents and the narrative – about why of one or other raid, bombing, or last stand. I also do not want an answer to this question – I want this question to hang there, unanswered. This is a child’s question and it can never ever be answered. For all answers will be adult answers. Money, oil, power, greed, capitalism, territory, politics, strategy, votes. These are not answers. These are mere words. Why do men go to war?

I then began to point out the amazing outpouring of humanity we were all privileged to witness. Countries bordering Syria had many refugees – millions.

Syrian Refugee Children (Source: UNHCR)
Syrian Refugee Children (Source: UNHCR)

I spoke about Angela Merkel and how this was proving to be her finest moment. There were posters of her with captions in arabic saying ‘I love you Merkel’. I too had sent out a tweet last night saying just ‘I love Merkel’. If Germany reaches the target of 800,000 people given a new life in Germany I will be pleased that I have lived to see this day. We are still in the car – and my son asks, how will they communicate. I said they speak English. I was thinking of the beautiful boy who spoke – ‘we only want to go back’. He was beautiful.


Equally there were countries that were watching – not taking refugees, not required to take refugees. They stood accused – for their inaction. Or was it true – ‘who wanted to go there?’

I read why Germany has a unique attitude to the ‘refugee’ and how many alive in Germany have been a refugee too. This is a new way of looking at Germany, and I witness a huge softening in my attitude to Germany. I held forth yesterday in conversation with my daughter about Merkel. How she was a child of GDR, and would have grown up in an ideologically charged world. A world that believed and espoused the need for us to realise a world where everyone was equal. Maybe this generosity is something she has to carry. There are many such people in the world. Generous people. People who cannot contribute, even if they want to. In some places they can.

The Journey of Migration (Source – 6 charts and a map that show where Europe’s refugees are coming from – and the perilous journeys they are taking, The Independent, UK)

He then asked why people were walking through Hungary. I explained about how they were walking/ going from Turkey to Germany(map above).

Christmas Island, Australia (Source

I read of the “exodus of humanity”. Was this an exodus? Or do we want a new word, a new phrase? Something like “the big human migration”. Like the journey that herds in Africa take to seek out water and pasture. A journey that does not recognise national boundaries, ethnicities and political narratives.

For me this is that spark of utopia that emerges every so often – only to be extinguished. I hear that Hungary has closed its borders! I know that this mass migration – the long trek – was a once of. A mistake that reveals the true nature of our humanity. We are once again spin and narratives.

My son asks – “Why don’t they send planes to pick up the people. Just throw heaps of money at this problem – and fly people in troop carriers to where they want to go. Chuck going through Hungary.” I turned to look at this amazing creature – my tears resurface, I struggle to focus upon the road – and say to myself: I vote you as President of the world my little boy ( he is 4 inches taller than me). Thank you Call of Duty, thank you all the military conflict playstation games – you are producing a new version of humanity.

I have been pushing this issue in my head too: what can I do? I asked Google and it answered – ‘what you can do’. I am teacher and I know I can do something. I can push this out as a campaign. I can light a spark. I can ask – are you with me? Dont you think we can do something – such as?
1. We can change ourselves by letting this sliver of light into our lives.
2. We can dream of a new future.
3. We can send money to UN agencies, to the volunteers.
4. We can make an “I love you Angela” Poster.
5. We can set up a way for this to become much bigger – for people in far away places to say and do something

Yesterday there was a public transport strike in Melbourne. A spontaneous voice rose from the travellers – please donate your fare to the refugee support agencies! This produces goose bumps. Its all around us – this humanity.


  1. UNHCR Page on Syrian Refugees (
  2. Everything you need to know about the European refugee crisis, Sydeny Morning Herald, (
  3. Worldvision on Syrian Refugee Children (
  4. Forgotten Syrian Children of War (
  5. UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visited Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, to meet 11 year old Hala and her five siblings who arrived as orphans from Syria’s war. (
  6. I am one of the people you would prefer to see dead – (

Migrants from India settled in Australia 4,000 years ago before Captain Cook’s arrival (and they took their dingos with them) | Daily Mail Online

This news item came up in the Daily Mail – scientists speak about the results of the Human Genome project –  that the Tamil gene in the Australian Aboriginal population was 140 generations old. (Thanks Arvind for the original post). What is interesting is that the humble dingo is now a cousin of the Indian dog.

Then the zh can be found in Australia. David Gulpilil is an Australian Aboriginal Actor – He pronounces his name in the Tamil way – Gulpizhil – the zh sound as in vazhapazham. Which I have always found interesting. So it appears that zh sound is 140 generations old.

Here is a video – of a spoken Aboriginal language. Sounds a bit like Tamil?

The DailyMail articles – Migrants from India settled in Australia 4,000 years ago before Captain Cook’s arrival (and they took their dingos with them) | Daily Mail Online.

Dr Irina Pugach, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said the international research team calculated that the Indian DNA reached the Aboriginal population 141 generations ago.

Assuming that each generation is separated on average by 30 years the geneticists were able to conclude that the Indian population arrived on in Australia 4230 years ago.

‘Interestingly this date also coincides with many changes in the archaeological record of Australia, which include a sudden change in plant processing and stone tool technologies, with microliths appearing for the first time, and the first appearance of the dingo in the fossil record,’ she said.

‘Since we detect inflow of genes from India into Australia at around the same time, it is likely that these changes were related to this migration.’

In 2009 I posted here – – about the similarities between tamil and the language in the movie Ten Canoes. The comments action of this post is very much alive – a topic that many others visit periodically.

A Ten Canoes Clip – 

Jam of Cane sugar and Fresh Figs

We have a fig tree in our back yard – just one. Every year it produces a lot of fruit through February and March. We are mindful that this is the bounty of nature. The fruit the tree produces is therefore meant for us and for the birds. The birds are Rainbow Lorikeets mainly. We often let our friends-visitors pluck the fruit and take some home. Figs are not everyone’s favourite fruit so there is often a good level of sharing between birds, home owner and the visitors.

This year we did not have a hot summer and the mildness of the temperatures may have slowed the fruiting of the tree. The tree was late and the first fruits were given over to the noisy birds. It could also be that I was feeling lazy, preoccupied or just waiting for the right moment. There of course was the fact that the grapes needed attention and I was addressing that by making my first Grape Jelly lot. You can see the Grape Jelly Recipe here.

There were a few people who helped with the plucking and so I ended up with about 8 kilograms of figs. Everyone will say make jam in small lots – it tastes better. I decided to push on make this jam in the large pot. Last year I had made jam with Jaggery and Indian Dark Rum. The people I gave it to had said complimentary things about that so I was going to go down that same route. Fig Jam made with cane sugar is quite the popular kind of Jam in France. Actually Jam of fresh figs (you can make Jam with frozen fruit too) and Cane sugar is the right name for this Jam. I also encountered Maggie Beer’s Burnt Fig Jam and was going to try that.

The Ingredients in this were:

  • Figs 8 kilograms
  • Cane Sugar (Gur) 3 kilograms
  • Juice and rind of 4 Limes
  • 1/2 Cup of Dark Rum ( I uses Indian Rum)

I cut the figs small and put it in a large wide bottomed pan. The pan went on to the fire. I added the sugar and let the whole mixture bubble away. The bottles were washed in the dishwasher, boiled in water and put into the oven to dry. The lids stayed in the boiling water. When the Jam was ready I bottled the Jam.

Then I was not happy with the result – so a week later I emptied all the jam back into the pot and reheated the Jam. The result was probably half way to being Burnt-Jam. I bottled all that last night. In the midst of my jam making I got a call from Alberto in Milan. Which was quite lovely – indeed. I was a bit unhappy even after all this Jam making. My jam was a bit dark and I had seen images on the internet of this reddish fig jam. So this morning I made 1 kilogram of Fig Jam with white sugar – the images are of todays Jam making session – hence the white sugar.

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Grape Jelly Recipe

This is a post about harvesting grapes from my backyard and then making Jelly from the grapes.

We have a single vine in our backyard and it throws up a profusion of grapes every year. One year, on black saturday, the heat dried all the grapes on the vine – we wondered if they had become sultanas. We pluck grapes, hand them out to visitors and there is a still quite a lot left over. Like the sole fig tree which generates two harvests a year the grapes too needed a processing activity. So I approached the vine yesterday, a sunny saturday (which later turned violently stormy), with a basket and a pair of clippers. When I had finished I had 10 kilograms of grapes. Which was now a problem. I would have to do something with them – the option of giving them to others is not available because these grapes have seeds (first barrier to eating them for people who have grown used to seedless grapes), plus they have thick skins (which are good for protecting them till we want to do something with them) another negative.

IMG_3905 IMG_3909 IMG_3910 IMG_3911 IMG_3912


IMG_3920IMG_3917 IMG_3918

I went online to find what else could be done with grapes. There was the grapes in the casserole recipe that looked interesting. Eventually I settle for the Grape-Jelly option. The recipe is simple:

1 Grape + 1/2 Sugar + some Lemon + some source of pectin.

So here is the GRAPE JELLY making process that I went through:

  1. I had some jars I had picked up on a trip to Bright over summer. Put jars to boil in water, put the lids into the water. I gave the jars about 20 minutes in the water, then transferred jars and lids to baking trays. I put the baking trays into a pre heated oven (180 deg C) possibly for 10 minutes, then left them in there with the oven off.
  2. The grapes went into a big pan onto the gas (no water – though some recipes say add water). The grapes possibly took a while (45 minutes) because I was processing about 7 kgs. At the end of this period I mashed the grapes with a potato masher. Then poured the lot into a muslin draped over colander. The experts say they leave this for 24 hrs for all the juice to be extracted. I was in a hurry – so I got as much out as I could and discarded the leftover in the muslin into the compost.
  3. The juice then went into a pot, I added the sugar and boiled the mixture. I then added the pectin I had picked up (Jamsetta – 50 gms for each 1.5 kgs of grapes – so I added 200 gms of Jamsetta). The mixture came up to boil. I skimmed off the scum.
  4. I pulled out the two saucers I had cooled in the freezer. Onto them I poured a tiny bit of the mixture from the pot. This was to check that I had the consistency right.
  5. The the bottled came out of the oven, the jelly mixture was spooned into the jars and I capped the jars while still hot. That was 12 jars in all.

Now the process had a glitch the first time I did it: I had used less pectin in the first iteration. So the jelly did not set – it was a cordial at best. I had to go to the shop to get more pectin, then empty out all twelve jars into the pot and run the dishwasher with the bottles. The bottled went into the oven again and the test was run again too. The jelly firmed up nicely on the chilled plates. Now I have 12 jars in the studio – cooling and hopefully of the right consistency.

This is another post in the Preserves section of the slow food journal.

Yannis Varoufakis

I heard Varoufakis on the radio this morning. Then put on this TED talk of his and sat watching it with my daughter. “When someone is insolvent will you give them a huge loan” he asks. This is exactly what EU did to Greece with the collusion of the Greek’s politicians. He then goes on to ask – if you are saddled with a loan that is huge and that you cannot hope to pay it off -what is the solution? The people giving you the loan write off half the loan (Germany post war) or you tie the repayment to the growth of the GDP (Australian student loans). He is brilliant and I nominate him as a person to follow, listen to and read-up on.

“One of the great ironies of the eurogroup is that there is no macroeconomic discussion. It’s all rules-based, as if the rules are God-given and as if the rules can go against the rules of macroeconomics.

“I insisted on talking macroeconomics.”

Then if you like the Voldemort allusions – if you are of such a persuasion.

Anyone else think could make a living as Voldemort’s double, if the finance minister gig goes phut?