Americans are not used to living in small spaces; a few years ago when Apartment Therapy wrote about a 430 square foot apartment in Paris that housed a family of four, commenters were outraged, considered it cruel, with one saying " In the US, the children would be taken." In the New York Times, Allison Arieff wonders How small is too small?
Arrieff looks at the range of small unit projects being proposed in New York and San Francisco that we have covered in TreeHugger (see related links at left) but also the Eugene Lobomir's wonderful upLIFT competition entry (done in collaboration with atr+d & Brian Schulman). Lubomir describes the design:
These plug and play units are completely prefabricated, injection moulded panels made from recycled materials. As interchangeable panels, variety and customization become the standard condition.
The units weigh about the same as a car, and so that they can be delivered on a truck and parked in pre-existing spaces. The upLIFT "appropriates the space of the automobile.... in an effort to re-envision space of human occupation."
The units look perfectly reasonable for a single person, more than enough when the city is your living room and entertainment centre. As Allison writes,
Small housing units can be well designed, though their success is contingent on the success of the urban setting in which they exist. In other words, what’s outside the door needs to be compelling enough to make up for what might otherwise be internalized inside a larger home.
The real issue is going to be the accommodation of urban families. Many people don't believe that kids belong in apartments in the city; The deputy mayor of Toronto recently questioned the merits of it, saying “I mean, I could just see now: ‘Where’s little Ginny?’ ‘Well, she’s downstairs playing in the traffic on her way to the park!’”
In fact people do it all over the world, and we are going to be seeing a lot more of it in North America. More in the New York Times