The duo’s elegant proposal, Live Between Buildings, won the recent New Vision Of The Loft 2 competition by Polish window firm Fakro and new architecture magazine A10. The brief: to create an unconventional loft space incorporating at least ten of Fakro‘s roof window modules. Designs were encouraged to be space-saving, environmentally friendly, and to make optimal use of natural light.
As the cross-section reveals, the winning design is a playful one. It envisions a truly unique living space – one where you can climb a wall or relax in a hammock – squeezed in between two regular buildings. These infills or “parasites,” as Danish co-designer Storjohan likes to call them, are entirely made up of lightweight Fakro widows. This goes some way to illuminating the relative darkness between two full-size structures.
At the same time, Storjohan points out that the designs are much like the floor plan of a regular house, with each space “having completely different sections” or rooms. In a way, their design is literally turning conventional living on its head! Naturally, their competition entry is not an urban cure-all or suitable for anyone (especially the claustrophobic!). As Storjohan concedes, “it takes a certain kind of person to enjoy walking up and down stairs all the time.”
Yet what these micro dwellings might lack in space, they more than make up for in originality. Along with the standard kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom set-up, these lofts make ingenious and unique use of every available inch of space. The toilet is accessible via a ladder, as is an indoor garden area. This “life hyper-close to nature and city life” promises a “maximum of living quality” with a “minimal footprint.” An emphasis reflected in the loft’s decidedly non-utilitarian style: Possible blueprints include shapes like a Christmas tree or letters of the alphabet.
The result is aspirational and idealistic, rather than brutally functional, and clearly aimed at a young and relatively wealthy demographic. Yet in this age of urban overcrowding, there is also a strong practical demand for compact dwellings.
Other site-specific micro designs to fill the gaps between existing buildings illustrate this global trend and approach. Proposed projects include two of the world’s most densely populated cities, Tokyo and New York. In the latter city, the mayor recently lowered the guidelines for the minimum size of a living space, thus paving the way for partially subsidized “micro apartment” units in Manhattan, each less than 400 square feet (approx. 40 square meters) in size.
Tokyo has seen many such schemes over recent years, but other cities – like Boston or Seattle – are catching up. Supporters of micro dwellings include John Franca of Suffolk University Law School, who claim that such concepts could “add a certain dynamism to the city,” by providing a cheaper alternative for young professionals and recent graduates who would otherwise be “priced out of the market.” The above-mentioned Manhattan development paves the way in this regard: At least 40 % of its units must be let at an affordable rate.
If current population forecasts are accurate, micro living concepts might soon evolve from fashionable quirk to pragmatic necessity. By 2030, the UK will have grown by 10 million people, for example, while New York braces for a projected 8 % rise in residents. To cope with this likely uptick in numbers, urban infrastructure needs to adjust.
Yet as Live Between Buildings proves: Just because the future is dense, it certainly doesn’t have to be dull.
Text by Tim Peyton
All photos, incl. the header image, by Ole Robin Storjohan and Mateusz Mastalski