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 – (