We've been having a debate about tiny houses at Archotus. The tiny house phenomenon seems to have peaked in our collective conscious, as evidenced by this recent bit of snark. Here is a snippet of intra-office conversation about LILLU, who is currently a trailer with a dream:
C: I have some issues with the tiny house phenomenon. To me, it’s a little like Libertarianism: it hits all the right buzz words: freedom, autonomy, individualism, etc. But the promises are vacant because you still need society and its systems. With the tiny house in most places you still need the grid; you end up parked surreptitiously behind someone’s garage, and in some cases you are creating an environmental nuisance.
D: This is part of the reason I am trying to make LILLU combinable, I don’t want to hold it to some notion of autonomy, it should be a kit of parts, or like a family growing. It should be able to become part of the fabric of different densities of habitation.
C: But would you not agree that the tiny house movement is kind of another manifestation of American’s fetishization of a singular idea of home? Like we can’t get over the idea that we should be pioneers, taking over the wilderness in little autonomous units, a Little House on the Prairie impulse manifested in educated people who should know better.
D: Well, I think it is pretty established that people like to have access to outdoor space, preferably space they have some control over. A small house on a small plot of land is an ideal, and I don’t think it’s bad. It does limit density but, you know, we’ve all lived in different scales of cities and all cities have vast swaths of dense but low-rise neighborhoods that could be denser and healthier if the zoning allowed smaller lots. There are many different ways to live on this earth, and for the most part it should remain that way, and so should the impulse to improve upon all of them. The only way of living I take issue with, and am doing so through this project, is the absent one. Why do you decide to live the way you do? It’s a worthwhile question, and the answer “because that’s the way it’s done here” isn’t sufficient.
C: But wouldn’t we be better having tiny apartments in dense aggregations where we can share resources more efficiently? Think of a large aggregation of tiny houses: like all cute things, put too many in one place and they get scary.
D: The tiny house is not a replacement for the apartment, its a different thing entirely. In fact I think you could make the argument that the tiny house that is mobile could serve its inhabitants longer and better than an apartment, or a larger fixed house. LILLU can go places. If I made LILLU in grad school, I’d still have her and would have lived in her in at least three different locations.
C: All things turning out perfectly, perhaps. But isn’t part of our modern nomadism about experiencing new things and that includes different forms of housing, different types of neighbors, different views, things like that. If you are carting about the same shell, when you are home you might as well have never moved. In a way it is like the virtual house we live in on our computers. Same interface, different day. Do you want that as your actual house?
D: I disagree with the idea that you would not experience your new surroundings in an exciting way. I think of the habitant of a little house being more adventurous than that. Besides, the LILLU concept is perhaps in a different realm than the mini shotgun house on a trailer with the planter of flowers in front of its one sad window. LILLU is really a kit, ideally it could be reconfigured, different parts sold or traded, it could actually conform to code in certain conditions it could become just a small house. But still mobile.
Proportionality is really important here. One of the issues - and I think your term fetishization is appropriate - that I have with many tiny houses is how they use house typology clichés in unfortunate ways that don’t acknowledge the proportions we are dealing with. At the tiny scale a house is not efficient if it is a Monopoly house, a window is not a window, it is an aperture, a void, a portal. Doors, windows are the same thing. Even walls should not be limited to wallness, they should have the ability to open or shift.
H: I like the idea of thinking about proportionality in relation to time. What you are proposing here is a house that changes proportion over time. So proportionality becomes something that enters the fourth dimension. That’s kind of cool.