"Form follows time" in tiny transformer apartment


Form follows Function” is a phrase usually credited to the great Chicago architect Louis Sullivan. In his book Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, Reyner Banham called it “an empty jingle.” In designing a tiny 309 square foot apartment in Hong Kong, architecture and design firm LAAB modify it to “Form follows time,” where they use all kinds of modern technology, from moving walls and sliding screens to Hue bulbs to electronic locks, to build an apartment that adapts through time. I wonder if they have read Banham, who also notes in the book (written in 1960):

It may well be that what we have hitherto understood as architecture, and what we are beginning to understand of technology, are incompatible disciplines. The architect who proposes to run with technology knows now that he will be in fast company…. If, on the other hand, he decides not to do this, he may find that a technological culture has decided to go on without him.

LAAB is indeed running with fast company here. “Form follows time” changes the way we think about design. The architects note in the video that they have to think in four dimensions, designing spaces that open, close and slide around the needs of the client and the time of the day.

movie setup© LAAB/ movie time

Client Michelle wanted a big “American” kitchen and a real bath tub, as well as room for guests. Andy wanted a big home theater setup. It sounds like a program similar to Graham Hill’s for his LifeEdited project, but with a third less space and three more cats. The changes and transformations through the day are much more subtle (and a lot less expensive) than what we saw in Gary Chang’s Transformer Apartment, also in Hong Kong- the raising of a screen here, the moving of a panel there.


This one space can take the following forms:
  1. The traditional bathroom with bathtub.
  2. Separate bathtub so that a guest can shower while the host brushes teeth or vice versa
  3. 2nd tier seating creating a two tiered home cinema or seating for large groups of friends
  4. Guest bedroom for short stay guests

cats© LAAB/ cat time

It’s not just an apartment for people, either; great care has been taken to make sure that their three cats, Banoffee, Dumpling and Tuxedo, feel at home.

Cat areas include a cat walk around the ceiling, cat ladder, litterbox hidden beneath the bathroom sink, cat food trays hidden within the kitchen cabinets and a hidden den for them to relax in.

party time© LAAB/ party time

Andy and Michelle conclude:

The most important thing is how comfortable the apartment is. Many of our friends come over and visit our place, and they have never seen such a nice kitchen even though their own apartments are bigger than ours.

sleepy time© LAAB/ sleepy time

That’s because of the four dimensional aspect, where “Form follows time.” The phrase might be the biggest thing to come out of this project.

And if you want some fun, read Robert Heinlein's And he built a crooked house to find out what it is really like to design in four dimensions.

"Form follows time" in tiny transformer apartment
The space/time continuum comes to architecture.

Related Content on Treehugger.com