Italian architect Renzo Piano has gone from building Europe’s tallest building (the Shard in London) to one of its smallest. Finally completing his career-long dream of building a micro house that only measures 7.5 sq m (81 sq ft), Piano’s single-occupancy unit has been added to the gardens of the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany. Dubbed “Diogene,” the small structure is named in honor of the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope, who was said to have abandoned all worldly luxuries and conventions for the simplicity of living in a large ceramic jar.
While it’s hard to imagine how a unit that measures 3 by 2.5 meters (9.8 by 8.2 ft) can be big enough to be called a home, the Diogene model provides the simplest of comforts for one person without leaving anything out. The micro home features a living area which comes equipped with a foldaway desk and chair, sofa bed and recessed storage boxes. A separated utilities space features a composting toilet, shower plate and a small kitchen unit with built-in sink and refrigerator.
What really makes this tiny home functional, however, is the amount of storage space. Storage units have been incorporated throughout the entire unit – they are built into the walls, the floors and even the roof. Furthermore, each internal component has been ergonomically designed to occupy the minimum amount of space, and for easy usage.
The Diogene micro-structure is made from a lightweight yet durable shell that can withstand a wide range of temperature variants, including extreme heat and snow storms. The bearing shell has been built using cross-laminated cedar timber panels with a thin aluminum exterior coating, which helps strengthen the structure while also reflecting heat.
A series of sustainable technologies have been put to use outside, above and below the unit, giving the module its off-the-grid status. The roof is fitted with a boiler tank and solar panels, which provide the home with hot water and enough electricity to power the interior LED lights, electric stove and small refrigerator. Rainwater is collected and stored in special containers positioned underneath the house. The water is then filtered, pumped and used for the shower and kitchen.
In addition, the entire cabin has been insulated to keep the interior cozy in winter and cool in summer, and the triple glazed windows (including the large skylight) are all fitted with roller shades. The Diogene home sits just above the ground, so it has very little impact on its surrounding environment and its total weight is just a few tons, thus allowing it to be transported easily, be it by helicopter or truck.
Although the Diogene micro home is only big enough to accommodate one person, it would make a great backyard office, nature retreat or studio. Three different versions of the living unit are anticipated to be available from Vitra in 2014 and we hope the collection will include a bigger version that’s suitable for a couple or small family.
The Diogene prototype is currently being tested on the grounds of the Vitra Campus, and visitors are welcome to pass by and check it out for themselves.