8/29/14

4 Reasons "Tiny Homes" Are A Terrible Idea

Aren't They Just Mobile Homes?

A new craze hit the 1960's. It was a new kind of house. They looked modern and sleek, small and inexpensive. Best of all they were mobile, so you could move anywhere you want, and your environmental impact was minimal. They were called "mobile homes" and they were the future of residential living.

The history of architecture is full of irony. The trailer park today is stereotypically low-class conservatives. But lately there has been a resurgence of the mobile home, especially among the millennial generation, only now it is called a microhouse or small house. They are sold as 200 sqft homes that can be easily moved around and are cheap to buy. Basically, they are mobile homes dressed up to look more like traditional houses. (Shh, don't tell anybody!)


Housing Projects Are Still A Bad Idea

Modernists just don't learn. Years after Jane Jacobs warned us about the dangers of low-income housing, and decades after housing projects were bulldozed, they want to try it again. The media praises a "genius" project to build tax-subsidized communities for low-income and homeless people. Basically, a mobile home park. (Shh, don't tell anybody!)

The reason they don't work is because they isolate minority, welfare-dependent communities. You can't just throw a community like this on an island and expect them to sort it out.

True, the failure of low-income housing has been linked to the size of the development. A smaller, more local community should do better. But consider the cost. At $60,000 to build and $350/month to maintain, these units are not cheap. At least the housing projects of the 1960's were built economically.


Radically Different Houses Are A Bad Idea

Failing to learn from Amsterdam's mistake, England decided to build these same kind of communities for the homeless. Old shipping containers were recycled as small houses for low-income people, mainly immigrants. But surprise, surprise it turned into a miserable ghetto. Construction was shoddy, cost skyrocketed, and crime was out of control.

The problem is the very reason all these modern intellectuals, who don't actually have to live in these communities themselves, are so entranced by the idea. The houses look radically different from other communities. This furthers the isolation of these minorities. You can pretty up a mobile home or metal shipping container all you want but it is still a shipping container.

Furthering Our Narcissistic Culture

Western civilization is terribly narcissistic. In the West, great architecture is the building that stands out. Eastern societies consider great architecture the building that fits in. And coincidentally such societies like Japan have lower crime rates.

Problems arise when buildings stick out for the sake of sticking out, the Frank Gehry effect. One of the chief points of architecture design is to integrate into the typology of the existing environment. Tiny homes don't do this. You might fool yourself into thinking it is a low impact building because of its small size, but the truth is it has a great impact because its scale is so different.

The romantic inside the modern Hipster likes the minihouse because it makes him feel like less of a narcissist. He gets to be novel and different in his tiny home yet claim he is taking up little space and making a small environmental impact. Even better, he is living like the low-income and homeless do.


Solution: Mixed Housing

The solution today is what the solution has always been. New Urbanism puts low-income next to middle and high income, mixing residential with commercial and other building types. Greater detail in the built environment, not just some prettied up mobile houses, but actual experiencial consideration will lead to successful social integration.

See also:

A Model For The American City
Review: Global City Blues

8/28/14

Yozemi Tower Obelisk Yoyogi School, Tokyo Japan


Taisei designed the Yoyogi Seminer Main School building in Tokyo's Shibuya district. It was completed in 2008.

The skyscraper is divided in half. The lower half features a hanging garden and classrooms, and the upper half is dormitories for students. The transition between these halves opens up as an open courtyard. A reinforced concrete structure frames a full-length glazing on either side.











8/27/14

Orange Cube, Lyon France


Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane designed the Orange Cube in Quai Rambaud, Lyon. These architects are well known for their docks de Paris project that wrapped a bright glass and metal skin around a formal concrete structure. With the Orange Cube, Jakob and MacFarlane again develop a riverside dock with commercial furniture exhibition space and cultural gathering.

A playful and plentiful geometry generates perferations and gaps in the form and regulate daylight and room arrangement. The cone-shaped geometry is inspired from the city and the river. Two opposing forms meet at the cube and dynamically pervade the showrooms and six floors of offices.

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8/26/14

9/11 Memorial Museum, New York City


Snøhetta designed the September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center site in New York City. The memorial opened in May 2014 at a cost of $700 million.

The crystaline form is the only surviving remnant of Daniel Libeskind's exciting original design for the overall complex. The desconstructed glass and metal is dramatic, though $24 per ticket might be too much to ask. An entry pavilion descends down a grand staircase, with twin cross-shaped WTC in the middle. The procession 70 ft down into the hole is a stark departure from the bustling city. This huge underground space showcases parts of the original buildings and important memorials.

While architecture critics remark on the resilience and literalism, it can't rightly be said that this memorial went far enough. It mourns loss but is all rather conflicted and unresolved, almost inching toward defeatism. The legal squabbles surrounding the World Trade Center have been embarrassing.

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8/25/14

Istanbul In Crisis Of Because Of Changing Architecture


The Turkish Council of State ruled that three massive skyscrapers recently built in the city's Zeytinburnu district must be destroyed. Zeytinburnu is a working class region just outside Istanbul's old city walls. The financial repercussions of this ruling will be very great, as the luxury high-rises have already been reportedly rented out.

"Activists and intellectuals" complained that the buildings ruined important views of sites such as the Blue Mosque, which is actually located a good three miles away.

Istanbul is renown for its preservation of architecture and culture, making it one of the most interesting cities in the world. Naturally the people don't want to change it. But the roots of this unrest go deeper.

Last year's protests over the development of Gezi Park grew into the largest protests in recent history after a brutal police crackdown. The Occupy movements all over the Middle East emboldened the lower classes to speak out against the destruction of a local park. Protesters for other causes such as authoritarianism of government and the war in Syria joined in. Protests over immigration from Syria still continue.

The similarity to America's controversy swirling around Jane Jacobs in the 1960s is striking. Old neighborhoods were being bulldozed to make room for government-controlled buildings. Communities were frequently uprooted and preferential treatment given to the rich. America may have given up trying to fight government abuse of eminent domain, but Turkey is only starting to wake up to it. A Turkish union promised last weekend it will to go to international courts to stop construction of a government complex on an environmentally protected zone.


8/22/14

Malmi Church, Helsinki Finland


Kristian Gullichsen designed the Malmin kirkko in Helsinki, completed in 1981. Pervasive red brick is balanced with soft wood materials on the furniture and ceilings. The influence of Alvar Aalto can be seen in the vast cavernous interiors and carefully planned daylighting. The textile work emphasizes the change of color by season of the year. A procession through the church is also carefully planned out, with a stone wall surrounding the church and a series of courtyards inside.

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