Imagine you are starting your studies in one of Germany's hallowed halls of higher education. If you made the grade, your acceptance guarantees you an education with only minimal student fees falling due. You are eligible for a modest package of student support and loans to cover your cost of living...but your rent is going to cost what??!!! Like many major cities with universities of good repute, the cost of living has skyrocketed out of proportion to a student's pocketbook. Ironic that at the same time, dark cob-webbed windows pitifully plead for anyone still conducting business or industry in these over-priced real estate markets to rent and occupy empty space. In step Michael Sauter and Sven Beck with Students-Loft (photo detail above by Sarah Schmid).Projects like the Micro-compact home have drawn attention to the magnitude of the housing problem, and inspired alternative thinking about solutions. Students-Loft takes the concept a step further. Their "Wohnbox" (Box-home) has been officially classified as furniture, and is therefore exempt from many building codes that make the design of micro-homes costly or complicated. Okay, a short detour into language and labelling here (skip to next paragraph if you just want to get on with the design stuff): wohnen is often best translated by the English verb "to live", as in living room (wohnzimmer). In fact, its connotation is much closer to the English verb "to reside". To pass time somewhere as opposed to the concept of "living"--you know, champagne and chocolates with a dear one and all that. So I am going to follow in the tradition of angst and kindergarten, and just call this thing "Wohnbox".
The Wohnbox is installed inside of industrial or business zoned space. After making arrangements for bathroom and kitchen areas, the wohnboxes are lined up about 2,5 meters from an external wall. Each wohnbox has 8 square meters outfitted with a bed, desk, storage spaces and efficiently stored furnishings which can be used in the free space which can be created by extending a movable partition out to meet the external wall of the hall in which the box stands. The open configuration gives each student 20 square meters of private space. Unlike the micro-compact home's focus on windows to create the illusion of a larger space, the wohnbox creates a barrier protecting the individual's private space. However, it leaves the impression that they would best be placed in high-ceiling halls with large windows letting in light, or great architectural features such as vaulted ceilings to jazz up the otherwise, well, plain and "boxy" aura. A good use of imagination for the use of the communal space remaining in the hall would further enhance the Student-Lofts lifestyle.
From a business model point of view, Students-Loft offers a win-win concept. Empty space gets used with a minimum of re-engineering required, leaving the originally commercially planned space intact (for when the businesses and industry come storming back on the heels of successful economic reforms). And students get living spaces, cost-effective and close to the site of their studies. One can imagine extending the concept beyond students to backpacker hostels, creating space for events like the world soccer championships or homeless and emergency shelters.
Sauter and Beck are looking for investors. Very good quality pictures can be seen on their website Students-Loft. The text is in german only but click on Presse/Infos and Bilder...hier to get to the prototype pictures, compliments and copyright of Sarah Schmid.