Text by Claire Barrett
Whether or not you want a climbing wall, a swing seat or an urban garden in your egg-shaped flat, Copenhagen-based architects Ole Robin Storjohann and Mateusz Mastalski are making a serious point with their playful micro-homes, designed to attach to existing buildings like parasites.
The pair’s Live Between Buildings project – a series of 2.5m-wide apartments shaped like everything from a cloud to a Space Invader – recently won an international competition run by window manufacturer Fakro and architecture magazine A10 to design a new vision for the loft. “The topic intrigued us because it was an opportunity to work with the future of housing,” says Storjohann. “To have a sustainable future we need denser cities, and another way of doing this is to build next to a building rather than on top.”
The architects researched some of the most densely populated cities in the world, from New York to Toyko, Helsinki and Amsterdam, and created a series of designs inspired by each city. The Helsinki home, for example, is based on the iconic shape of the Aalto vase designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, while the Amsterdam solution takes the outline of a windmill. “They are all quite literal representations,” says Mastalski, “because it was a competition. But it’s important to show the concept is really flexible, and that there are endless possibilities.”
The brief was open. “The one rule was we had to use Fakro products,” says Storjohann. “Instead of using one or two windows, we chose to make the whole building from them.” Choosing off-the-peg windows, they designed a grid of metal beams that would pin the new apartment to the existing building.
Living in unconventional narrow buildings, they acknowledge, isn’t for everyone. “The idea is to create a fun space,” says Storjohann, “and to make people fascinated by living in denser housing – many people dream of living in the suburbs.”
Still, despite a worldwide response to the designs, there aren’t any actual Live Between Buildings in the pipeline – yet. “We’re proud it’s made people think differently about how to live,” says Storjohann. “But if someone were to call us to build one,” says Storjohann, “that would be even better.”
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More great thin designs
At just 122cm across at its widest point, Polish architect Joseph Szczęsny’s Keret House may be the world’s narrowest home. Squeezed into the space between two buildings in central Warsaw, the house provides a temporary home for writers and artists.
Design graduate Tanya Shukstelinsky designed a concept for affordable housing in which people live between two pieces of suspended fabric. Stairs, sleeping area, dining space and even a bathtub are stitched into the fabric to create a multi-level home.