Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Height of Small Footprint Urban Living


The Height of Small Footprint Urban Living
Photo & Text Copyright 2009 Seattle Daily Photo. All rights reserved, including reproduction or republishing.
We purposefully live in a very small house, purchased from best friends who have for a couple decades subscribed to small footprint, simple living. When they sold us their house, they moved to even smaller digs. They sold us their car, too, and did not replace it, but ride their collapsible (Brompton) bikes everywhere. I remembered seeing a photo they took of this prototype modular multifamily dwelling they toured, in which they'd posed their collapsed bikes in front of the colorful doors. I thought the dwelling was an exhibit that had long ago been removed. But, no. I spotted it in a place that had not occurred to me to look. . .UP! This two apartment model called "Inhabit" is perched on a downtown rooftop! You can read more about it here, and see the plans (now on hold due to the economic downturn) to build a multistory complex in South Lake Union from recycled cargo containers that are prefabricated into contemporary stackable digs that can be shipped anywhere. This is NOT your granny's modular resort home! Thrift meets urban density design meets recycling.

I remember when we lived in San Francisco seeing something similar done with old horse drawn trolleys and cable cars that had been discarded in the dunes at the end of the line in Ocean Beach when the line converted to newer trolleys. People had started living in the discarded cars and the area was called "Carville." Then some people stacked them and incorporated them into larger houses built in the last few blocks of the Outer Sunset. Looking out a friend's back window there on 48th Avenue, I could still see the windshield and the headlamp of the cable car that nosed out the back of the house behind theirs. So, it doesn't surprise me at all in a newly thrift-conscious era that cities all along the west coast are seeing sales in shipping containers for shed and home building use becoming trés popular. What do you think? Could you let go of enough "stuff" to live in something so small? I don't think I could for very long.

12 comments:

Wayne said...

A number of clever people, some architects, some not, have built homes from surplus sea-cans.

I read about one such home in Victoria that received planning approval and was built but I haven't seen it. I think it may be in the Ferndale neighbourhood.

brattcat said...

It's so appealing, the idea of paring down to the bare minimum. But although we're certainly moving in the opposite direction of acquisition these days, I'm not certain we could compress our lives into such a small container.

Clueless in Boston said...

Living in recycled cargo containers brings to mind a science fiction novel I read a few years ago by Neal Stephenson (please don't ask me the title:). The purpose in the novel of living in such small quarters was not to be eco-friendly, but due to overcrowding. It's interesting how good writers have a pretty keen eye on where society is heading, for whatever the reason.

Maya said...

Well, my studio apartment is about half the size of one of those apartments, so I'd say, Yes, I could! Though, I'm tired of it. I'd like a little more space!

Don and Krise said...

I watched a program on HGTV about this very type of home. They really can be very nice inside and very efficient energy-wise. Glad you found it.

Anonymous said...

IT'S A DOUBLE-TALL TRAILER HOME WITH STAIRS FOR PETE'S SAKE.

Bibi said...

I would absolutely LOVE to live there, and yes, I can and do regularly downsize. I just have tooo many 'things'.

cieldequimper said...

I think I could. I would just need a third floor! Amazing idea.

B Squared said...

A good idea, but not for me. Will be slow to catch on.

Macro photography said...

Interesting concept but wouldn't work for our 7 person family.

Seattle Massage said...

That place looks so amazing, but like people already mentioned it doesn't look that practical.

Kim said...

A friend of mine who is a pediatrician did extensive research while on faculty at UCSF on the effects of minimal space on monkeys. In a longitudinal study they kept reducing the size of the monkeys' natural habitat, shrinking their ability to rome, until finally after a long period of time in this shrinking universe there was only a very small space (I forget the exact dimensions, but think lotsa monkeys/very tiny diggs). In a presentation I heard him give about stress and resiliency they discovered that primates need a certain amount of personal space or you end up with literally monkey wars. The stress in the monkey society grew with each new restriction to a smaller habitat. This is how they end up with school recommendations for classroom size and square footage of playground space per student. It one reason why I'm a little sceptical of the wisdom in the urban density model. Developers would do well to know what amount of space humans need rather than how much profit per square foot THEY need. :-) Some societies have adapted better to small space urban living, and their social structures reflect the need to cooperate and value one another to get over the stresses of close proximity.

I cracked up about the double wide observation. . .it does look like a doublewide on its side :-).
Thanks all for your comments.
-Kim