Could you live in a “super mini house”?

Posted on 16 October 2010 0 comments

Note: The original web links in this article no longer exist. However, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine has a copy of the some of the original pages. The links in the post below have been updated to point to the Internet Archive copy.


Could you live with another person in a home that measured just 15 square metres? That’s the premise for an architecture competition from Waseda university in Japan: to design a “super mini house”.

“This is a proposal for a future dwelling, which can accommodate two residents and two guests. There is no height limitation but the maximum gross floor area is 15m2. This number is derived from J.G. Ballard’s science fiction novel,”Billenium.” In the novel, the population of the earth reaches 20 billion and 95% of the population resides in cities. Residential floor area per person is limited to 4m2 in that world.

…The site can be anywhere. We are planning to build an actual building from the winning design.”

This sounds like a horribly dystopian future, something omitted from the competition description. The 15 square metres must include living/sleeping/dining/kitchen and bathroom amenities.

How would you shape a 15 square metre space? Where would you put the windows?

Different floor shapes for a 15 square metre space

I’m sure many of the competition entries will have ingenious designs with double-height spaces, raised sleeping areas, and foldaway furniture and appliances; but I’m still uncertain what a competition like this will help us discover. Why start with a fundamentally flawed premise: that 15 square metres could ever be considered an acceptable dwelling size for two people? I confess I haven’t the imagination to solve a design problem like this, at least not in a way that I think would be acceptable for long-term occupation.

What about private space in a “super mini house”? Everyone needs a private retreat from time to time. If you are sharing this dwelling with another person, where is the space for your own privacy? Can it ever be more than some kind of screen, curtain or alcove?

It’s one thing to admire the plans for an ingenious “super mini house”, quite another to actually live in it from day-to-day over months and years.

Update 02 Dec 2010: the winners for the competition have been chosen. View the winning entries on the competition website. There are indeed some clever solutions and ideas, but I’m still not convinced they could represent a long-term housing solution for most people.

The design by Tsutomo Abe (pictured below) is the best of the winning entries in my opinion.

House C07 by Tsutomu Abe - third prize winner
PHouse C07 by Tsutomu Abe. The design won third prize in the Waseda Architecture Centennial design competition.

The design above only really works if you’re not overlooked by neighbouring homes, which given the competition premise to design a small home based on scarcity of land seems a highly unlikely scenario.

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