Expansive Thinking re: Tiny Houses

Expansive Thinking re: Tiny Houses

Students present their designs at a January crit for Biophilic Tiny House.

“Don’t be afraid to be extreme – to design something crazy,” grad student Jeremy Bass MID 18 urged students at an interim crit in January for Biophilic Tiny House, a Wintersession course he co-taught with fellow Industrial Design grad student Maggie Coblentz MID 18. The two teams of students clearly rose to the challenge, presenting final tiny house projects for critique on Tuesday, February 7.

Both designs complied with the project parameters, which called for houses measuring in at less than 150 square feet and incorporating natural light and greenery as a means of maintaining mental health in such a small footprint.

Team A, which was asked to design a space for a couple with a young child, proposed a circular house with a rooftop garden and a glass dome that provides plenty of daylight. The house features two pull-out toilets in the bathroom – a small one for kids and a larger one above for adults – along with a pedal-powered washer/dryer and expandable furniture pieces (all meticulously modeled in cardboard).

The sleeping arrangements seem a bit tight for three, noted Landscape Architecture faculty member Nadine Gerdts, a critic who suggested that the hypothetical child sleep in a hammock hung under the dome.

Team B, which imagined an elderly couple living in a tiny house, created a two-piece design that could be pulled apart in warmer months via a motorized mechanism for indoor/outdoor living. “The square footage doubles when the house is open,” they explained during their presentation, and the roof is sectioned off to house solar panels on one side and collect rainwater on the other.

“One of the advantages for elderly residents,” noted Nature Lab Director Neal Overstrom, who also served as a guest critic, “is that the floors are all level even when the walls are open so there’s no need to navigate steps.”

Other proposed space-saving devices include a motorized bed that rises to the ceiling when not in use and expandable tabletops inspired by the folding mechanism inherent in bird and insect wings. “The bed is accessible from either side,” the students explained, “and the long narrow spaces allow our aging homeowners to use the walls for support so they’re less likely to fall.”

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