Mimi Zeiger

By Nandaka Jayasinghe

The trend of being environmentally responsible along with the notion of “less is more” have been explored thoroughly and presented in a simple and concise manner in the book “Micro Green – Tiny Houses in Nature”. The book explores a wide spectrum of dwelling unit typologies ranging from humble beach shelters for surfers to sleek aluminium cocoon shaped houses suspended amidst tree canopies.

Among the projects featured,  the “ Mobile Eco Second Home (MESH)” provides shelter for a specific function such as sleeping, while other projects such as the “Sunset Cabin” in Canada and the “Fincube” in Italy are comfortable stand alone dwelling units, which have a footprint area of approximately 500 sqft. The projects have been categorised based on footprint area, starting from 43 sqft going up to 1722 sqft.

The constraints of cost and size often lead to bold and out of the ordinary responses to design problems. This statement holds true for all of the featured projects. Projects such as “Villa Hermina” in the Czech Republic, explores the possibilities of not only folding away furniture but the possibilities of folding away entire spaces. Other projects explore the use of reused or salvaged materials ranging from timber to rusty steel sheets to freight containers.

Smaller projects provide architects the ideal opportunity to focus thoroughly on detail, allowing design ideas to flow through to all aspects of a project; a common drawback in most large building projects. The six 70 sqft dormitory structures in Thailand featured in “Micro Green” is an excellent example, which shows how a single material could be used in a variety of ways as a cladding material, giving a very unique spatial character to the spaces created within.

The fact that most of the projects featured in “Micro Green” not being houses but in reality being shelters, studios, weekend retreats and second homes brings to light the fact that no matter how green a dwelling may be, compact living remains a social experiment. Even though the projects featured show how this may be done in a practical and effective manner, the hurdle of making compact living a social norm is yet to be overcome. While some of the design notions explored remain far-fetched and radical; it may very well become a norm to live a simple and happy life in an eco-conscious “tiny house” in the near future.

It brings to light the fact that no matter how green a dwelling may be, compact living remains a social experiment.