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Build This Tiny DIY House and Transform Your City Build This Tiny DIY House and Transform Your City

Build This Tiny DIY House and Transform Your City

by GOOD Partner, Christine McLaren

July 12, 2012

This content is brought to you by the BMW Guggenheim Lab

Just how small is the smallest place you’ve ever spent the night?

As of last weekend, my answer is “one square meter.” For one night, I slept in a house that was hand-made, portable, and about the size of your average phone booth. You can do it, too—so listen up.

The “One-Sqm-House”—a little structure anyone can build using basic materials from the hardware store—is the brainchild of Van Bo Le-Mentzel, a Berlin-based architect, and founder of DIY furniture project Hartz IV Möbel. As a child, Le-Mentzel fled with his family to Germany as refugees from their home country of Laos. He spent much of his life moving around, dependent on social subsidies and social housing, so for him, the concept of where you are “at home” has always been central.

Recently, he had an audacious idea: he wanted to build a house that he could put anywhere. It didn’t need to be big—one square meter would do.

“When you look for an apartment . . . the first thing you look at is the location, and then at the numbers—how many rooms, how many square meters? But when you really think about it, the [numbers] say nothing about the quality of the apartment,” he says. “So I said, okay, I want to have my own square meter, the only square meter in the world where I can decide what direction the window looks in, what direction the door opens in, what neighbors I have.”

Berlin-based artist and psychologist Corinne Rose was intrigued by Le-Mentzel’s house. Rose is a member of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile laboratory traveling the world to inspire innovative ideas for urban life. Working on programming during its stay in Berlin, she found the tiny houses the perfect artistic, philosophical, and physical concept to address the Lab's theme. Last weekend, Rose and Le-Menztel invited city dwellers to the Lab to build their own One-Sqm-Houses, and made them available to people with low income for one euro per night. (Interested? You can make your reservation now via Air BnB.)

Rose and Le-Menztel are also calling on partners around the world to build One-Sqm-Houses in their own cities and document their stories. Do you think your city might be ready for the next pop-up neighborhood of these micro-dwellings? Contact Van Bo Le-Menztel at prime@web.de and you can get started on documenting your house building journey.

Plus, if you've got your own innovative idea on how to improve urban life, submit it to the latest GOOD Project, Transform a Public Place. Send us your idea by July 17 and it could be featured by GOOD and the BMW Guggenheim Lab.

Photo via Amara Antilla and Maria Nicanor. © 2012 Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

To find out more about the Lab, and to learn more about the One-Sqm-House, check out @BMWGuggLab and #BGLab, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr. Sign up to receive the latest news and get involved.

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