Renzo Piano gets small

diogene exterior
© Renzo Piano/ Vitra

Tiny houses are a big thing these days, and most of them are decidedly low tech. Now seriously high-tech architect Renzo Piano, known for big things like the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Shard in London, tries his hand at tiny with Diogene, which Domus calls "a technically perfect and aesthetically attractive refuge, testing the potential of the minimalist house."

The prototype for Vitra is described in Domus:

Diogene is not an emergency accommodation, but a voluntary place of retreat. It is supposed to function in various climate conditions, independent of the existing infrastructure, as a self-sufficient system. The required water is collected by the house itself, cleaned and reused. The house supplies its own power and the necessary platform is minimised. Renzo Piano emphasises its aspect of “spiritual silence”. “Diogene provides you with what you really need and no more,” Piano states.

Not only is it designed by one of the world's top architects, its systems are designed by one of the world's top green engineers, Matthias Schuler of Transsolar. It has everything:

Whereas “Diogene’s” exterior corresponds to the image of a simple house, it is in truth a highly complex technical structure, equipped with various installations and technical systems that are necessary to guarantee its self-sufficiency and independence from the local infrastructure: Photovoltaic cells and solar modules, a rainwater tank, a biological toilet, natural ventilation, triple glazing.

Diogene is equipped with everything you need for living. The front part serves as a living room: On one side, there is a pull-out sofa; on the other, a folding table under the window. Behind a partition, there are a shower and toilet as well as a kitchen, which has also been reduced to the necessary. The house and furnishings form a single unit.

There is no indication about price, or whether furniture maker Vitra is actually going to put it into production, but it if they do it won't be cheap; there is a lot of plumbing and other systems happening here.

The great challenge lies in planning the complex product so that it is suitable for industrial series production. “This little house is the final result of a long, long journey partially driven by desires and dreams, but also by technicality and a scientific approach,” explains Renzo Piano.

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