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From stylish backyard dwellings to a sleek floating home

Whether it’s Kanye’s dome prototypes or Ikea’s plan to design residences for people with dementia, prefab housing of all stripes continued to make headlines in 2019. For our year-end roundup of the best prefabs, however, we’re highlighting the most impressive designs that are available to order.

You’ll notice that a few of these picks are intended as accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which have had quite a year, especially in California, where new laws are making it easier for single-family homes to add a backyard unit. As prefab construction is particularly well-suited for the job, we’ll surely be looking out for more sophisticated, ADU-friendly prefabs heading into 2020 and beyond.

A city-approved modern ADU

In an effort to incentivize more housing stock, the city of San Jose, California, recently pre-approved a backyard dwelling from Bay Area housing startup Abodu so that residents can buy and install one in as little as two weeks. The 500-square-foot house, designed by U.K. studio Koto, costs $199,000 and offers Scandinavian modern style with stark white walls, pale wood floors, and the option to add a curated furniture package.

A full-size algorithm-designed backyard dwelling

LA startup Cover first unveiled its tiny box of a prefab studio/office in 2017 with algorithm-driven design as its claim to fame. This year, the company made its offering more ADU-friendly by unveiling a full-on one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. The 436-square-foot, L-shaped design features an open-plan living and dining area, and a bedroom tucked into the back. The cost of design and build is $193,000.

AI SpaceFactory/Plomp
Using concrete and giant printers, home building may one day be much faster and cheaper.

In a forested patch of Garrison, N.Y., on the Hudson River, a giant robotic arm looms over a platform. Later this month, the platform will start to rotate while the arm pumps out a gooey concoction of basalt and biopolymers. Round it will go, receiving layer upon layer, until the arm, like a demonic pastry chef, has extruded an entire egg-shaped house.

This 24-foot-high, 500-square-foot, two-story construction will have a sleeping pod, a bathroom with a shower, a study area and other amenities you might expect from a cool short-term rental. In fact, it will be a cool short-term rental, as well as a demonstration of the future of home building.

The project, called TERA, is one of the latest experiments in 3D-printed houses. Innovators in this arena are seeking to reduce the expense, environmental impact and hazards of construction methods that have remained fundamentally unchanged for more than a thousand years. They are adapting a now-commonplace manufacturing technique in which a computer-controlled dispenser spews a malleable material that hardens into the shape of a pipe fitting, a chair or an internal organ — or, one day, a whole inhabitable building, with its myriad components and systems robotically extruded.

Architects and engineers are edging closer to this goal, by printing portions of houses and assembling or finishing them conventionally. (In TERA’s case the exterior shell will be printed on site and a separate birch plywood interior inserted.) They are testing different structural, surface and insulation materials and struggling to clear one of the highest bars in this technological obstacle course: the 3D-printed roof. (It’s a problem of weight. For TERA, the 3D-printed roof is an easily supported half-inch-thick dome.)

And many of these pioneers have their heads in the clouds.

TERA, which was designed by AI SpaceFactory, a Manhattan architectural studio, evolved from a prototype Martian habitat called MARSHA that won a NASA competition in May. (You can see details at the exhibition “Moving to Mars,” through Feb. 23 at the Design Museum in London.) MARSHA was destroyed as a final test of its stability — NASA wanted to see how much force it would take to crush it. AI SpaceFactory is recycling the crushed material in TERA to demonstrate its commitment to zero waste.

Mars’s atmosphere, about 100 times thinner than Earth’s, determined the habitat’s tubby shape: As pressure within the structure is equalized, the building envelope bulges. Because the cost of shipping construction materials more than 30 million miles is prohibitive, the design makes use of volcanic basalt rock, which exists on Mars, below a layer of dust. The vision is of an autonomous robot that collects, processes and prints what it finds.

Designing for extreme conditions in space helps solve terrestrial problems, noted David Malott, AI SpaceFactory’s co-founder and chief executive. The strategy of building homes on site with hyperlocal materials could have tremendous environmental benefits for our own planet. “It’s a high-tech way of going back to the Stone Age,” he said.

Last year, in a widely publicized collaboration with the San Francisco-based housing nonprofit New Story, ICON introduced a 350-square-foot house in East Austin that has a conventional flat roof with standard framing lumber. The structure was printed with a machine called Vulcan I using a proprietary concrete-like material called Lavacrete. Construction took a total of 47 hours over several days and cost $10,000 for the printed elements.

In May, ICON and New Story again made news with their plans for a village of about 50 printed houses for a poor community in an undisclosed location in semirural Latin America. (An ICON representative recently declined to identify the site out of concern for the privacy of the families who will be chosen to occupy the houses, which are still awaiting construction.)

Now ICON is working with the nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes on Phase 2 of Community First! Village, a 51-acre development that accommodates former members of Austin’s chronically homeless population in RVs, tiny houses and, soon, several 3D-printed cottages. In September, ICON produced the first printed building for the complex, a 500-square-foot welcome center, in a total of 27 hours over several days. The job was done with a Vulcan II, ICON’s next-generatio
Granite Peak Photography
Many tiny home designers are guided by the principles of flexibility when it comes to being mobile, but rarely have we seen a tiny home creation that can be enjoyed on land and on water. Designed and built by our new hero, Scott Cronk, the Heidi-Ho, is a beautiful solar-powered tiny cabin built on a 30-foot pontoon.

According to Scott, the ingenious floating home creation was inspired by his need to explore the world on his own terms, “After wildfires in the Fall of 2017, I sold my home in Santa Rosa, Northern California, and moved to the Palm Springs area, Southern California,” he explained. “This houseboat is a way for me to spend my summers visiting friends in Northern California.”

The Heidi-Ho houseboat was built on a 30-foot long pontoon boat that can be pulled by a trailer. In fact, one of the driving forces behind the flexibility of the tiny home design was that it was an acceptable size for legal road transport. Accordingly, the deck is capable of being reduced to just 8.5 feet wide. In addition to being road ready, the entire cabin can also be removed from the boat deck to be used as a camping trailer.

And although this may have been considered limiting to some, Scott took on the challenge head on and created a spectacular living space. Although compact, the tiny cabin boasts a comfy living and sleeping area, complete with all of the basics.

The interior is light and airy, with wood-paneled walls and plenty of natural light. The interior living space is made up of custom-made bench seating, a removable dining table and a galley kitchen.

All in all, the compact cabin can sleep three. The main sleeping area is created by transforming the dining table into a double bed. Then, a bunk bed drops down from the ceiling for additional sleeping space.

The kitchen has everything needed to create tasty meals, including a three-burner stove top and oven and a refrigerator. Additionally, there is plenty of storage for kitchenware as well as clothing and equipment found throughout the tiny home.

Adding space to the design, the cabin features dual rear doors that can be fully opened. The doors lead out to the pontoon platform, creating a nice open-air space with boat seats to enjoy.
Ruy Teixeira
Brazilian architect Marilia Pellegrini has unveiled Casa Container in São Paulo, a micro home inside two shipping containers filled with Nendo furniture.

Pellegrini designed the 18-square-metre show home to demonstrate that recycled shipping containers can be disguised and used for high-end housing.

The architect referenced modern, minimalist Japanese design with Casa Container's interiors, citing Muji art director Kenya Hara's style influence and including pieces of furniture designed by Nendo founder Oki Sato.

Casa Container was unveiled at the 2019 Casacor exhibition, an annual architecture and interiors show in São Paulo.

Two 12-metre-long containers have been laid next to each other, with their corrugated metal structures covered entirely in white Dekton.

This surface material by Cosentino is made from quartz, porcelain, and glass, fused together under high pressure to form a UV- and heat-resistant slab that is harder than granite.

Large glazed walls and doors on the front facade allow light in and can slide back to open out onto a landscaped patio planted with bamboo designed by Studio Clariça Lima.

Windows on the other side create a cross breeze, and slim white Dekton louvres shade the glass walls from direct sunlight. The floors, walls and all of the interior surfaces are also realised in white Dekton, along with marble-effect surfaces.

"Making it all white has the main purpose of giving it evenness, and enlightening the sense of space," said Pellegrini.

Casa Container is separated into two halves, with a living and dining space to one side and a bedroom with a private en-suite bathroom on the other.

The grey fabric sofa is by Sao Paulo design studio Estudiobola. Recessed strip-lighting emitting a soft glow runs through the rooms and over the bed.

Pellegrini is following in the footsteps of other architects who have repurposed shipping containers for housing.

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma used stacked white shipping containers for a Starbucks coffee shop in Taiwan, as did James Whitaker, who designed a house in the California desert made from white containers splayed at different angles like a star burst.
Maria Saxton studied the habits of 80 recent tiny home buyers

Tiny house proponents have long lauded the compact dwellings as an environmental savior. The smaller the home, the smaller the footprint, right? That argument has helped boost the popularity of tiny homes, but until now, there wasn’t much in the way of actual research on the topic.

Maria Saxton, a PhD Candidate in environmental planning and design at Virginia Tech, spent a year studying the environmental impact of people who moved into tiny homes, and she found that most tiny home dwellers reduced their energy consumption by 45 percent upon downsizing.

How did she get to this number? Saxton lays out her methodology in The Conversation:

To do this, I calculated their spatial footprints in terms of global hectares, considering housing, transportation, food, goods, and services. For reference, one global hectare is equivalent to about 2.5 acres, or about the size of a single soccer field.

I found that among 80 tiny home downsizers located across the United States, the average ecological footprint was 3.87 global hectares, or about 9.5 acres. This means that it would require 9.5 acres to support that person’s lifestyle for one year. Before moving into tiny homes, these respondents’ average footprint was 7.01 global hectares (17.3 acres). For comparison, the average American’s footprint is 8.4 global hectares, or 20.8 acres.

After surveying 80 downsizers, she learned that a change in square footage often leads to a change in lifestyle habits. People living in tiny homes were more likely to grow their own food, buy less stuff, recycle more, and generate less trash. On the flip side, some tiny dwellers traveled more often and ate more meals out due to the constraints of the tiny home lifestyle.

Saxton hopes that the information will be useful to cities considering how to zone for tiny homes. It’s also a wealth of information for tiny home designers, who can start to think about how to build a kitchen that inspires downsizers to cook their own meals.
Humble Hand Craft
Founder Ryan O’Donnell takes us inside three of his artful, handcrafted tiny homes and camper vans.

Woodworker and tiny home builder Ryan O’Donnell has been honing his craft since he was a kid, when he first worked for his father, a contractor in Ojai, California. "I worked for him for about 15 years, or since I was just a little guy of about 12, sanding boards for him," says O’Donnell.

Fast forward to 2012, and O’Donnell started applying his love of finish carpentry and custom building to tiny houses. He set up a small shop off the "main drag in Ojai" and spent about a year and a half of nights and weekends building his first model. "I ended up finding a buyer for that house, and the rest is sort of history, from one tiny house to the next," he says.

Since August of 2018, O’Donnell has run Humble Hand Craft out of a 1940s Quonset hut in Ventura, where he builds artisanal tiny homes and converts vans into campers using a more "conscious approach." This includes powering his shop with solar energy and relying on salvaged and sustainably sourced wood, as well as other green building materials such as low- or no-VOC finishes and vegan, recycled denim insulation.

The material that O’Donnell finds on his "wood-sourcing adventures" up and down the West Coast often guides the aesthetics of the finished home. "California has really good wood if you look enough and you’re willing to travel for it," he says. "I have a passion for working with old-growth material and trying to source it as ethically as possible."

Each house ends up being unique because of the nature of the reclaimed wood. "There are a lot of stories behind the material," says O’Donnell. "That might be why I like it so much."

Inspired to take a long summer adventure in a sweet tiny camper? Well, French start-up Carapate has unveiled a 10.5-foot-long, boat-like travel trailer for adventurous souls to travel in style and comfort. Although compact, the interior space of the Carapate Travel Trailer is incredibly flexible with a modular bed/sofa combo, a sliding galley kitchen and an extra-wide swing door to take in panoramic views.

According to the company, the design for the trailer was inspired by the beloved teardrop campers. Using the classic teardrop design as a starting point, the designers gave the camper a rounded trapezoid shape to create a bit more square footage. With traditional shipbuilding techniques, the team constructed the trailer to be incredibly lightweight. Coming in at approximately 990 pounds, the tiny trailer is easily towed by most vehicles and is extremely road-friendly. The nautical inspiration can also been seen in the camper’s exterior cladding, which includes wood, white and navy detailing. This sleek, yet classic feel continues throughout the interior.

The entrance is through an oversized door that swings open and upward. This extra large doorway provides plenty of natural light to the interior as well as wide, unobstructed views of whatever incredible scenery may be surrounding the vehicle.

Inside, white walls and wood detailing pay homage to boat interiors, as does the savvy storage solutions found throughout. The tiny camper comes equipped with a number of flexible furnishings that are meant to make the most out of minimal space.

A modular bed layout includes three single mattresses that can be folded up into a sofa or fit together on the floor to create a sleeping area for two. The galley kitchen is also a smart, space-saving design. The concealed countertop slides out to reveal the basic amenities, including a single-burner stove, sink and a pull-out cutting board.

The basic Carapate trailer package, which unfortunately is only available in Europe at the moment, starts at just under $16,000. However, the campers can also be customized with extra features including LED lighting, solar panels, an electric/gas fridge box and more.

Drop Structures
Canadian company DROP Structures is on a mission to allow people to “drop” the company’s incredible cabins (almost) hassle-free in just about any location. One of the most versatile designs is the minimalist Mono, a tiny prefab cabin that runs on solar power and can be set up in just a few hours.

Although the minuscule 106-square-foot cabins take on a very minimalist appearance, the structures are the culmination of years of engineering and design savvy. According to Drop Structures, the cabins, which start at $24,500, typically require no permit. Thanks to their prefabricated assembly, they can be installed in a matter of hours.

Built to be tiny, but tough, the Mono tiny cabins are clad in a standing seam metal exterior, which was chosen because the material is resilient to most types of climates and is low-maintenance. The cabins also boast a tight thermal envelope thanks to a solid core insulation that keeps the interior temperatures stable year-round in most climates.

The Mono features a pitched roof with two floor-to-ceiling glazed walls at either side. This standard design enables natural light to flood the interior space and create a seamless connection between the cabin and its surroundings.

The interior space is quite compact but offers everything needed for a serene retreat away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The walls and vaulted ceilings are made out of Baltic Birch panels that give the space a warm, cozy feel.

The biggest advantage of these tiny cabins is versatility. The structures can be customized with various add-ons including extra windows or skylights, a built-in loft, a Murphy bed and more. They can can also go off the grid with the addition of solar panels.

Simon Devitt
Two thick, wooden sleds allow this 430-square-foot beach hut to be relocated along the white sands of New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula.

Placed on the dunes of New Zealand’s idyllic Coromandel Peninsula, Hut on Sleds by Crosson Clarke Carnachan Architects makes the most of its 430 square feet. Despite its petite stature, the timber-clad cabin is a relaxing retreat for a family of five, framing picturesque beach views.

Given that the Coromandel beach site lies within a coastal erosion zone where all buildings must be removable, the New Zealand–based architects have designed the home to rest on two thick wooden sleds, which allows for easy movement—whether it be back inland or across the beach and onto a barge.

With a brief from the clients requesting a small, simple, and functional design, the team have created the home to enable the family to explore the real essence of holiday living. "The normal rituals of daily life—cooking, dining, sleeping, and showering—are all connected to the outside," explains the firm. "Within, every available space is used: there are even secret cubby holes in the children's bunks."

A large, two-story shutter on the front facade opens up to reveal double-height, steel-framed glass doors, which instantly creates an intimate indoor/outdoor connection with spectacular seaside views.

When not in use, the holiday retreat can be completely closed up, protecting the structure against the elements. The home’s rough macrocarpa cladding blends harmoniously into the landscape.

The building's modest size and primary use of timber cladding embodies the client's desire for sustainability. "Apart from food delivery and non-recyclable waste removal, the hut functions as a self-sustaining organism with rain-catchment tanks, a worm-tank waste system, and separate potable and gray-water tanks," describes the firm.

Nelson Garrido
When a client approached Lisbon-based architectural practice Studio 3A for a small residential project in the seaside village of Comporta, the architects knew that a major challenge would be keeping the house naturally cool during the oppressively hot summers. In keeping with their commitment to sustainable architecture, the architects used passive solar strategies and efficient insulation to mitigate solar heat gain. The firm also teamed up with design studio Mima Housing to prefabricate the buildings, named Cabanas in Comporta, which were topped with solar panels and sheathed in charred timber for a durable and maintenance-free finish.

The architecture of Cabanas in Comporta follows a modular design of three types: the “intimate module” that houses the bedroom and bathroom; the “social module” for the living spaces with room for an outdoor pool; and the “service module” that also serves as storage for items such as the client’s car collection. Together with Mima Housing, Studio 3A prefabricated the modular buildings with oriented strand board sandwich panels and wooden joints. The facades are clad in timber charred black using the Japanese technique of Shou Sugi Ban.

“As local connoisseurs, we based our construction method on the traditional fishermen huts/cabanas as an inspiration for our project,” explain the architects. These huts have been built in this area for years and are very functional and quick to build which were another important point of our brief. With this construction type we had a couple of challenges to face which was the hot-summer Mediterranean climate and the mosquitos which are well known to bug you in the area. We implemented various sustainable strategies to reduce the heat sensation such as the calculated overhangs in front of the main windows, low emissivity window panes and a tensioned solar shading system in between the cabana modules.”

Heat gain is further controlled with a double blind system installed in both the interior and exterior. The external blind also zips down to protect the home from mosquito invasions. Strategic placement of the buildings optimizes solar orientation and access to cooling breezes. Dark cement flooring is used to take advantage of thermal mass, while photovoltaic panels and heat pumps help heat the buildings in winter.

Thomas Mueller
Can digital fabrication unlock a new frontier in low-cost timber construction? All signs point to yes in the IBA Timber Prototype House, a micro-architecture project that’s been playfully described as “a log cabin turned on its side” by its designers at the Institute for Computational Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart. Designed to meet PassivHaus standards, the airtight and highly sustainable building system was developed as part of the International Building Exhibition (IBA) Thueringen and is currently on show in Apolda until September 29.

The IBA Timber Prototype House shows how computational design and fabrication technologies can turn low-cost timber construction into an environmentally friendly, economical and architecturally expressive way to build. The mono-material building consists of a series of staggered upright spruce timber frames with thin slits that serve as stress-relief cuts to prevent splitting and dead-air chambers to increase insulation values without compromising structural capacity. Digital fabrication and five-axis CNC milling also allowed for the creation of precision-cut airtight joints for connecting the timber elements so that no metal fasteners or adhesives were needed in construction.

“Conventional building systems have a vast array of different materials embedded in them, which often have very high embedded energy costs and are difficult to separate for recycling,” explains the ICD team. “In contrast, this research draws on traditional joinery, and a system was developed that relies purely on wood elements for structural connections and airtight enclosure, minimizing system layers and ensuring easy disassembly for end-of-life recycling. Furthermore, the project sources all the wood from within the state of Thueringen, where the demonstrator was built, allowing the team to minimize the embodied energy costs associated with moving materials over transportation networks.”

The tiny building’s curving walls and roof are also a result of digital fabrication, while simulations of the home’s energy efficiency—the house achieves a U-value of 0.20 W/(m^2K) without additional insulation—have indicated that the prototype should perform up to PassivHaus standards even during cold German winters.

Bruno Zaitter
In the state of Paraná in the south of Brazil, architect Bruno Zaitter has created a contemporary and low-impact suite for the charming Hotel Fazenda Cainã in the countryside. Dubbed the Refúgio da Cainã, the building features walls of glass to take in sweeping views of the native forest, surrounding mountains and the city of Curitiba in the far distance. Elevated to reduce site impact, the prefab structure includes a repurposed container measuring nearly 40 feet in length.

Spanning an area of 538 square feet, the modern Refúgio da Cainã has been dubbed by Hotel Fazenda Cainã as their Hannah Arendt suite after the renowned American philosopher and political theorist. Included in their Villa do Bosque collection, the contemporary chalet is equipped with full-height windows for taking in views of the large native forest to the south, as well as city and valley views towards the east. The streamlined interiors are dressed with a natural materials palette that complements the outdoors.

“In this natural space marked by a wide green area and the characteristic geology of the site, the Refúgio da Cainã contemplates a simplistic structural concept that reveals the connection of the interior with the exterior by the minimal intervention in the natural environment,” explains the architect, who adds that the hotel is located in the area of a geological fault called the “Escarpa Devoniana.” “It has in its essence, the relation between the artificial structure and the natural universe, where the concept of the project is to harmonize with nature without trying to disguise it, revealing its straight lines as opposed the curved and organic lines of nature.”

To reduce environmental impact, the architect reused a nearly 40-foot-long metal container for the bulk of the building, which includes the bathroom on one end, the bedroom in the middle, along with a dining area and living room on the other end. A “glass box” was added to the container and houses a sitting area enclosed on three sides by floor-to-ceiling glazing. The building is elevated with pillars to preserve the natural terrain and minimize site impact.

Alessandro Benetti
Homeless charity New Story has teamed up with Yves Béhar's design agency Fuseproject and construction company ICON to develop a pioneering solution to the issue of the housing for all.

Will 3D printing put an end to the issue of giving every human being a house which is worth of this name, especially in the most disadvantaged areas of the planet? A home which is not only a salubrious, safe “container”, but also a space for life and happiness?

Amongst the supporters of this vision stands the multidisciplinary team formed by non-profit New Story, Yves Béhar's San Francisco-based design agency Fuseproject and construction company ICON, who have recently announced the soon-to-begin construction of the very first village built with this technology – shall a neologism be invented, though, to name the 100% printed urban agglomeration?

The difficult balance between standardisation and customisation, the not obvious correspondence of quantity and quality, searching for cost optimisation while avoiding pauperism: these are the same challenges, which recur on a cyclical basis in every historic moment requiring to quickly build a lot of homes – such as in Europe during the last after-war period – and which the youngest technologies also have to tackle today.

Without bringing into place the rhetoric of the “cure for all ills” – back in the day, traditional prefabrication was also considered as such, with the devastating effects that we all know – 3D printing has great potential, that New Story’s project is able to build in: for instance the speed of construction (24 hours are deemed sufficient to produce the structure of a house), as well as the possibility to integrate several built-in elements in the original file.

At the tropical latitudes of Latin America, the members of a countryside community, involved in a process of collaborative design, will soon become the very first users of this futuristic experiment. Their homes, whose size ranges from 55 to 75 square meters, will go to print this summer. A few adjustments were made to adapt them to the harsh tropical climate, such as the overhanging canopy, protecting them from heavy rainfalls, and the partially perforated envelopes, enhancing natural ventilation.

Future generations will comment on the outcomes of this heroic quest: for the moment, we can only praise this political approach to the architectural profession, one which re-thinks its boundaries and its tools, on the basis of the actual needs of the contemporary world.
Now you can add a tiny home or cabin kit to your cart.

You can buy just about anything on Amazon these days, from mundane household necessities to garish novelty items—and now, there are even DIY kits to help you construct your own tiny guest house, shed, office, or lounge. Take a look at the prefabricated units Amazon has to offer below, and get ready to upgrade your backyard.

Allwood Arlanda XXL
Ideal as a detached office, garden shed, or yoga studio, this 273-square-foot kit unit from Allwood will run you $10,695. The structure has large windows, a small porch, and a simple, clean design.

The Arlanda XXL from Allwood is available on Amazon for $10,695.

Ecohousemart Laminated Log House Kit
Made out of glulam—an engineered wood product made out of glued, laminated timber—this house kit has a gross area of 1,290 square feet. The home is designed to have three bedrooms and one bathroom, but note that additional materials not included in the kit are required.

Allwood Solvalla
This studio cabin kit from Allwood provides 172 square feet of outdoor and indoor space. The indoor space is well-lit from large windows on two sides, while the partially enclosed portion is covered with a shed roof and has vertical battens on one side to provide shade. The kit sells for $7,250.

Weizhengheng Expandable Container House
Geared toward those with an interest in sustainable design and lowering their carbon footprint, this expandable container house is made out of a galvanized, light steel frame and runs on a solar power system. The home is made in Germany and is available for $24,800.

Timber Frame House Lounge Kit by Ecohousemart
This prefabricated, cabin-like building is made out of a glulam and clad in northern spruce wood. The 1,000-square-foot structure can be customized depending on the type of foundation, windows and doors, or other requirements you might have, but does not come with these items: the kit mainly includes framing elements.

Allwood Getaway Cabin Kit by Lillevilla
Priced at $18,800, this cabin kit features 292 square feet of space, including a sleeping loft in the taller portion of the gable roof. Because the home has minimal insulation, it would ideally serve as a summer house, home office, or even a stand-alone retail building, but could easily be used as a residence or in colder climates with utility hookups and extra insulation.

Sunray by Allwood
This 162-square-foot cabin kit is available for $8,690 and is typically available to ship within three to five weeks. The kit is ideal for a lake or beach house, with large windows and shading on a deep front porch.
Dallas & Harris Photography via Charles Cunniffe Architects
The small resort-town of Telluride in the Colorado Rocky Mountains is known for its world-class skiing, remote location and, until now, lack of low-cost housing. When the tourist numbers begin to pile up during the busy season, those working in the hospitality industry at restaurants, shops and resorts are often forced to endure a long commute from the areas outside of town, where prices are cheaper.

The expensive hotel rooms and vacation homes are a dream for visitors, but when it comes to lower- to middle-class workers, affordable accommodations are scarce. Architecture firm Charles Cunniffe Architects out of Aspen recently completed a low-cost option for housing just outside of central Telluride, with rents as low as $385 per person.

The complex consists of a boarding house with room for 46 tenants, another building with 18 separate apartments and three tiny homes. You wouldn’t know by looking at it that Virginia Placer is considered low-cost housing. The architects blended the structures among the plentiful high-end resorts and expensive housing for which Telluride is known.

The buildings are placed at the base of a tree-covered mountain, and the exterior is made of high-quality wooden panels and a variety of metals, including steel. The apartment building utilizes open-air stairs and wooden balconies, while the boarding house has a huge deck with mountain views and a canopy for protection from the elements. Inside the boarding house, communal lounges and two kitchens are available for tenants to use.

With a focus on sustainability, the designers installed oversized windows into the apartments for passive solar and ventilation. The tiny homes across the street from the main two buildings share the same design of metal and cedar and total 290 square feet of living space per dwelling.

Scoring a spot in the development is a literal win — potential tenants are chosen through a lottery. Apartments range from $850 to $1430 a month, while a tiny home costs $700 monthly. The cheapest option for individuals is the communal boarding house for $385 per month per person.

Tom Ferguson
Transported in a single shipping container and raised in two weeks, this clam-shaped cabin nestles against a rocky outcrop outside Sydney.

The idea of a prefabricated cabin, with components light enough to carry and assemble without heavy machinery, had long had a siren call for owner and architect Mark Fullagar. After many nights sketching and dreaming of the perfect solution, Fullagar came up with the Fabshack—a 540-square-foot cabin with 90 percent of its structure built off-site.

Designed and built by Fullagar, the compact, comfortable cabin has a queen-size Murphy bed, seating area, storage, open kitchen and dining room, bathroom, laundry room, and deck from which to enjoy mountain views on his 26-acre property in Cattai, a suburb of Sydney, Australia.

The cabin is constructed of cost-effective, non-combustible materials in 8-foot-wide bays. Each bay consists of hollow-insulated plywood panels nestled within a steel frame, elevated on piers that lift the structure above the ground. Insulated plywood forms the continuous ceiling and curved wall of the cabin, creating a soft interior while facilitating necessary rainwater drainage on the outside.

Corrugated steel, aluminum window frames, and strengthened glass create an industrial exterior. By contrast, the plywood-wrapped interior adds warmth and texture to complement the natural setting. Green linoleum countertops and black millwork enliven the muted palette. Large windows face west to take in the mountain views, with sliding shutters that protect against the afternoon sun.

Ninety percent of the work was completed in a workshop, meaning minimal labor time was spent on site. All components were packed in one shipping container, and each component was carried by one or two people to the site.

The Fabshack demonstrates the flexibility and adaptability of prefab construction. Since the cabin is comprised of modular bays, it can be modified for different purposes or sites, its components easily dismantled and recycled, and its materials upgraded depending on preferences and budget.

Roland Halbe
For Chileans—especially those who live in the frenetic capital, Santiago—a second home is an essential refuge, an escape to the serene beauty of the natural landscape. Architect Mathias Klotz, principal of his eponymous firm, has designed many such houses, characteristically with a clean-lined modernism that nods to one of his heroes, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. For his own family’s retreat on a largely undeveloped coastal island, he used archetypal forms that evoke both past and present. Constrained by the remote location and tricky logistics, the result is a timeless design that blends into the pristine setting.

Klotz is a passionate sailor, and this two- cottage compound echoes the pared-down elegance of his 40-foot Beneteau sloop. The architect wanted a base for family and friends close to the coastal channels and fjords of southern Chile, where he has long cruised and competed in regattas. He found the ideal spot on Coldita Island, in sheltered waters off the southeast coast of the much larger island of Chiloé. The 410-acre property had everything he sought: beach, dense native forest, safe anchorage for his boat, no nearby neighbors. The island’s infrastructure, however, was less than robust: boat-only access, minimal docking facilities, no roads to speak of, and no utilities. But none of that fazed Klotz, who prized unspoiled nature and knew how to create what he needed.

“I wanted to build something very simple and essential,” he says. That made practical sense, given that all materials had to be shipped in on a narrow, open motorboat. “The big windows were the hardest things to transport,” he recalls. “With the limits of the boat and the weight the workers could handle, the roof beams couldn’t be longer than 18 feet.” Which determined the dimensions of the two structures: 18 by 98 feet, with a 26-foot-high roof peak, for the larger house; 18 by 23 feet for the smaller guesthouse. The latter, dubbed Cabaña Coldita, stands a stone’s throw from the water. It was built first as a proof of concept, a kind of full-scale model for the main house, which stands on a low bluff nearby.

“I designed the cabin without any architectural pretensions,” Klotz says. “I was inspired by the houses that children draw, and by the sheds at the Museo de Arte Moderno,” a cluster of barnlike structures by architects Edward Rojas and Eduardo Feuerhake in Castro, Chiloé Island’s main town. Cabaña Coldita’s plan is as tidy as its taut-skinned volume: a ground floor with a bathroom, an open kitchen-living-dining area, and a bed alcove with a sleeping loft above it.

Casa Francisca—the larger cottage, named for Klotz’s wife, artist Francisca Benedetti—is an elongated version of the cabin, but with a more complex plan. The siblings have much in common. Both are timber-frame structures clad in corrugated, galvanized-steel siding, with a good foot of insulation between the two materials. In both interiors, the rough-hewn framework is completely visible—“it’s the most beautiful part of a wood house, so I left it exposed,” Klotz explains—with all surfaces, including floor, wall, and ceiling boards, simply whitewashed. Both are heated by wood-burning stoves that also heat water, pumped from a river on the property, for bathing and laundry. Solar panels and a seldom-used generator supply power. “Electricity reached the island last year,” Klotz notes. “But I don’t want it because they’d have to cut down a lot of trees to get it to us.”
KZ RV Sonic X
But what does that mean?

KZ Recreational Vehicles just introduced the Sonic X, described as “the industry’s first self-sustainable lightweight RV." Now, when I am not writing for TreeHugger, I am teaching sustainable design at the Ryerson School of Interior Design in Toronto, and one question I put on every final exam is “What is sustainable design?” I keep hoping that some day someone will give me an answer that makes sense – and I have no idea what “self-sustainable” means.

Bill McDonough has a standard joke about the word sustainable, once telling Andrew Michler at Inhabitat:

"I think it’s a nice word because so many people can use it. But, nobody knows how to define it. That’s part of the issue, and that’s why we never use it. For example, if I say what’s your relationship to your wife? Do you say just say sustainable? Don’t you want more than that? Don’t you want creativity and fun and all these things? If we just sustain what we are doing now, then we’re all dead."

That is the root of the problem with this Sonic X. If we keep towing three-ton trailers behind giant pickups, we are all dead. Is this "sustainable" at all?

But they are trying. Making it out of carbon fibre is theoretically a plus; it will be much lighter and take less fuel in the pickup to tow it. The unit has “the same durability and lighter weight of some of the world’s fastest and most luxurious supercars. The lightness of the carbon fiber allows for greater versatility, as it can more easily navigate the confinements of a city as well as the great outdoors.”

But they left it in its original carbon black, which is not going to be comfortable in the sun. And the material itself is actually carbon fibre-reinforced plastic, layers of carbon fibre laid up in a plastic resin. Mark Harris of the Guardian calls it "the wonder material with a dirty secret." The fibre and the plastic cannot be separated and the material cannot be recycled. It may not even be legal to make luxurious supercars out of it in Europe soon, because of EU rules that state that 85% of a car must be reusable or recyclable. That’s not sustainable.

There are a thousand watts of solar panels on the top, and nine batteries of unspecified capacity that are said to provide “endless solar power.” There is also a "Secondary Infinite Water System (S.I.W.S) with a heavy-duty water pump, 25-foot hose and water filtration, which can be connected to fresh water sources such as a stream, river or lake and can store up to 100 gallons of water."

But judging from C.C. Weiss's photos at New Atlas, there is a standard RV toilet and blackwater tank which is not infinite, and has to be pumped out.
Amit Dadlaney
Completed on a bare-bones budget of under $20,000, this tiny house led to financial freedom for a family of four (and two dogs).

Downsizing to 200 square feet is no easy feat, but for Jilan Wise and her husband Josh Farley, it was a decision grounded in financial necessity. The couple had been renting a 2,500-square-foot house in Kansas City, Missouri, with two kids and two dogs—but they were overwhelmed with increasing living expenses, maxed-out credit cards, and student loans.

Tiny house living, the duo surmised, would be their escape plan from debt. The couple spent over a year designing and scraping together a bare-bones budget of $18,000—including opening a line of credit—to fund the construction of their tiny house.

"We spent so much time researching this project," Jilan says. "The learning curve was massive, and the inspiration was our budget. We wanted to create a beautiful space with new material for not a lot of money."

The couple temporarily moved their family into Josh’s parents's home and built the tiny house with help from Josh’s father, a certified electrician. In just over two months, Jilan and Josh completed their tiny house and set off on a move to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Without money to buy property, and obstructed by Las Vegas’ stringent rules for tiny houses, the couple first moved into a "questionable" trailer park—a last resort, since many RV parks and other mobile home communities Jilan called had refused to accept their tiny house.

The old trailer park, described by Jilan as seedy and uncomfortable due to an antagonistic neighbor and petty thefts, was less than ideal, but living there gave the family the means to climb quickly out of debt and adopt the minimalist lifestyle they craved.

With their newfound financial independence in hand, the family seized the chance to move onto private property after nearly two years of living in the tiny house. "Moving away from that trailer park brought such an overwhelming sense of peace to our family, it was unbelievable," says Jilan.

Staphanie Betsill
Zeena and Shane Fontanilla both grew up on the island of Maui in Hawaii, but they didn’t meet one another until after college when they went on a blind date together. Now the couple are living the dream — their 360-square-foot tiny house is parked on a wide stretch of land on their native island, along with their young son, Maverick. The picture looks pretty perfect now, but it wasn’t an easy (or quick) road to this dream realized.

The couple, who works for a family residential construction company — Shane works in the field and Zeena works in the office — kickstarted the process in April 2015. This was after they were engaged and just eight months before their wedding date. “Binge-watching Tiny House Nation on HGTV helped us hone in our ideal design,” Zeena shares. “It took us two years to complete with only nights and weekends to work on the house.” This project was completed by Zeena, Shane, and Shane’s father. “My husband grew up in a family of builders so he always had the dream to build his own home,” Zeena begins. “I don’t think he imagined it to be this small, but I think this was the perfect size for our first build together. This project was the best premarital counseling we could’ve asked for. Prior to starting our project I knew many joint decisions would need to be made. ‘Many’ was an understatement, try one billion decisions needed to be made. Let’s just say our communication skills are top notch. One exercise that is extremely helpful in any miscommunication is choosing a number between 1-10 displaying how much this matter means to you. You quickly realize which person this matter means the most to, which diffuses the argument quite fast.”

Once the hard work was behind them and the couple moved in (now with 19-month-old son, Maverick), a whole new set of challenges presented themselves to the family. “Unlearning what ‘normal home life’ means was a challenge we faced in our first six months in the tiny house,” Zeena reveals. “My husband and I became off-grid dwellers in our mid- to late-twenties with no prior experience. We went from never questioning electricity use at night to thinking twice about turning on a switch. Even though we had our battery storage customized to our electrical output plus some, it felt scary to trust a system we didn’t quite understand.”

Setbacks and learning curves aside, they have gained a wealth of knowledge, and have much to be thankful for, including, “The financial freedom it’s given us in such an expensive state,” Zeena notes. “We spent $45,000 to build our home when ‘normal’ homes on Maui cost around $400,000+.” The home was built and then driven to and parked on less than .25 acres of pasture land, which the Fontanillas rent from a family friend.

What quickly connected the couple over that first blind date — their “mutual love for exploring the many ecosystems Maui has to offer” (“and the fact that we both LOVE Mexican food,” Zeena adds) — ended up becoming a full-circle theme for Zeena and Shane as they find themselves navigating life truly off the grid. Their shared devotion for their home, their family, and the beauty that surrounds them is so evident, it’s definitely not lost on others who set foot in their home.

“Many people have confirmed this when they’ve visited our home but I feel a wave of peace each time I walk through the door,” Zeena shares. “We are surrounded by pasture land with grazing animals and a cool breeze that comes off the mountains. The 13-foot ceilings you experience as you first walk into the house add to that peaceful, light, airy feeling.”
Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses
The duo behind Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses design their own winsome home to pay tribute to the Colorado landscape.

For their own residence in the San Juan Mountains of Durango, Colorado, Greg and Stephanie Parham—the owners of Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses—have crafted an eye-catching tiny home that’s packed with functional features including an elevator bed, a folding deck, and an awning made of solar panels. Above all, the design elements pay tribute to the spectacular surroundings.

The design and build of their own dwelling presented the Parhams with the opportunity to indulge in some ideas that they aren’t always able to explore with clients.

"It is more ‘organic’ than our other builds," says Greg. "When we build houses for other people, they are normally on a tight budget and timeline, and this dictates a lot of design decisions. For this build, since we were doing all the work and didn’t have to pay for man hours, we committed to making something a little more eye-catching and beautiful than normal." Additionally, since they didn't have a hard deadline, it became a chance for Greg to experiment with some ideas and brush up on some woodworking skills.

The Parhams used reclaimed wood for their build, finding various resources on Craigslist ("mostly people taking down old fences or sheds," notes Greg) and scoring the antique porthole windows on eBay. The hardwood flooring was milled from local barn beams, and the loft beams were pulled from a house that was being demolished. They sourced their light fixtures and hardware at antique stores.

Marte Garmann via Arkitektværelset
Perched high on weather-beaten mountain is the Hooded Cabin, a sculptural wood cabin with a rugged exterior and a sleek interior. The contemporary building is the work of Arkitektværelset, a Norwegian architectural practice that embraced the many environmental and building challenges that the project posed. From the high altitude mountain conditions of Imingfjell, Norway to the strict building regulations, the limitations not only shaped the iconic form of the retreat but also encouraged “playful creativity” from the designers.

Set at an altitude of 1,125 meters within an area close to, but not within, the danger zone of avalanche activity, the 73-square-meter Hooded Cabin is surrounded by a wild and windblown snow-covered landscape. The architecture team wanted to take advantage of the sublime landscape and oriented the little wood cabin to face panoramic views of the lake. A “hood” element was created to protect the glazed opening and comply with building codes, which stipulated gabled roofs angled at 22 to 27 degrees.

“We kept the original idea of a ‘protecting hood’ from the initial project sketches,” head architect Grethe Løland of Norwegian studio Arkitektværelset said in a project statement. “The ore pine roof protects the ‘eyes’ of the cabin in the front and prevents rain to dribble down the main entrance in the cabin’s ‘neck’. The building becomes an understated iconic sculpture in an area that most cabins look alike, and our clients really liked its form.”

For a more striking visual effect, the cabin’s outer shell is built from angled unpainted pine paneling that contrasts with the black-painted main cabin “body.” Norway’s strict building codes also called for sectioned windows, standing wood paneling and triple bargeboards. Large windows bring nature and plenty of natural light into the sleek and modern interior, which is lined with oak floors and paneling. Built to sleep up to 12 people, the wood cabin houses a kitchen and living room at the view-facing front of the building, while the rear consists of the master bedroom, bathroom, a sauna that doubles as a guest room and an open attic that fits eight.

Mini Living
since 1959, MINI has transformed the way people live in cities. MINI LIVING enhances the same core principles from the famed automobile – creative use of space, iconic design and a fun experience – and applies them to architecture in order to maximize living space on a tiny scale. this big life on a small footprint idea has been exemplified by their urban cabin tour. this year-long initiative saw them create a global village of modular, 15-square-meter micro-apartments in london, new york, los angeles and beijing. each one featured the mainstays of a home – a kitchen, bathroom and, most importantly, a living room – but still differed distinctly from one another. for each urban cabin a local architect was invited to collaborate, share knowledge of their city, and help shape a home of the future for its people.

from london in september 2017 to beijing a year later, designboom takes a tour of MINI LIVING’s four urban cabins.

MINI LIVING urban cabin in london with sam jacob

during london design festival 2017, MINI LIVING’s first urban cabin created a space for cultural conversation within the community. the home, located on the southbank, was composed of two modules: a shared kitchen/living room and a micro-library. inspired by the food markets of the city, the kitchen was wrapped in an exterior of copper cladding that reflected the rich, warm and ever-changing contrasts of the surroundings. inside, it featured many modular design elements that encouraged interaction such as the pull-out table and rotating windowpanes.

the urban cabin’s wooden micro-library was a distinct addition created in collaboration with sam jacob studio, who was alarmed at the reducing number of public libraries in london. as spaces of knowledge, cultural exchange and building relationships, the design aimed to resurrect the experience of libraries. visitors were welcomed into the space to learn from the collection’s mixture of modern design books and timeless classics, as well as to exchange books with the general public.

MINI LIVING urban cabin in new york with bureau V

as MINI’s dedicated space for exploring new boundaries in design, A/D/O in brooklyn, new york was the location for the second urban cabin. placed within an outdoor courtyard, the space was able to fit two people in a design of timber and transparent materials. the concept aimed to reflect new york’s diversity and how home is a place for all people, no matter your background.

as people moved within the urban cabin, the design played with the angle of vision. created in collaboration with bureau V, transformational aspects enabled both moments of privacy and interactions with the outside world. as well, expressively-colored combinations of assertive and rigid forms supported this dynamism whilst adding a dose of humor. this feel-good factor aimed to highlight the importance of well-being to visitors at A/D/O.

Casey Dunn
ICON wants to tackle global homelessness by changing the face of construction and home design.

In 2017, ICON co-founders Jason Ballard, Evan Loomis, and Alex Le Roux met Brett Hagler, co-founder of the non-profit New Story, and realized that they had a united mission: To employ 3D printing and new building technologies to transform the construction industry and provide affordable, durable, and sustainable homes to those in need.

Just eight months later, in March 2018, ICON and New Story completed the first permitted 3D-printed home in Austin, Texas. The 350-square-foot home was printed by a device called the Vulcan I in approximately 48 hours. What’s more, the cost for the printed portion (the roof was not 3D printed) was about $10,000—a sum well below the average cost for a home of similar size and quality.

How exactly is that possible, you ask? ICON's founders focused on designing 3D printing technology specifically for the developing world—and after about two years, they arrived at a feasible solution. Because site characteristics, weather, and availability of materials can vary tremendously, the Vulcan I is mobile, weighs approximately 2,000 pounds, and prints on-site in a continuous fashion.

The printing material is a type of cementitious mixture that ICON developed specifically for their needs (they have several patents pending on both the hardware and materials). Although the mortar is proprietary, it is composed of basic materials that are easily accessible throughout the world.

The team wanted the home to be both recognizable and desirable as a house—but, as Ballard explains, they also "wanted to show off a few possibilities that are opened up with 3D printing," like curves and other non-uniform shapes. This is an area where 3D printing excels—elements that were traditionally bespoke can now be completed cheaper, faster, and often at a higher and more consistent quality.

For example, the home is essentially rectangular in shape, but it has two filleted, curved corners that give it a distinct exterior. On top of the 3D-printed exterior walls sits a clerestory window for ample daylighting, topped with a cantilevering shed roof that creates a wraparound porch.
Tree Tends
British company Tree Tents International has unveiled its most innovative and adaptable glamping structure yet. Meet the Fuselage, a flat-pack treehouse that can be set up almost anywhere, even on the most challenging terrain. Dubbed by the firm as an “extreme wilderness cabin,” the cylindrical dwelling takes inspiration from modern aerospace design for its durable and lightweight structure.

Designed with a triple-layer insulated skin, low-voltage radiant heating and a micro wood stove, the solar-powered Fuselage has been precision-engineered for thermal comfort in a wide variety of climate conditions, including the wintry environment of Northern Sweden, where one of Tree Tents’ first Fuselages was installed just a few hundred miles below the Arctic Circle. “I designed the Fuselage to access some pretty extreme environments — allowing people to stay in these amazing locations with a structure that is both lightweight in construction but as tough as old boots,” Fuselage designer Jason Thawley said in a press release.

To minimize the environmental impact of the Fuselage, the structures are flat-pack and modular so that no heavy machinery is required onsite for installation. Built from sustainably sourced wood and recycled aluminum, the units can be suspended from trees or mounted on stilted feet without need for large foundations. The firm even uses the waste from the manufacturing process to make camping accessories, such as stools and rucksacks, as part of its commitment to sustainable design.

Joe Fletcher
California firm Edmonds + Lee Architects has converted a 1960s travel trailer into an office and crash pad for an on-the-go tech entrepreneur who enjoys spending time in nature.

Named after the German word for bullet ship, the Kugelschiff trailer was designed for a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur who desired a highly flexible work setup. The client, Jeff Kleck, was urged by his daughter Alaina – an industrial designer passionate about sustainability – to create a mobile office.

"From that came this dream of the Airstream – a fully connective but simultaneously disconnective mobile office that could allow Jeff to focus intensely on his work in the midst of inspiration wherever he might find it," said San Francisco-based Edmonds + Lee Architects in a project description.

The client and his daughter spent a year searching for the ideal caravan. They ultimately selected an Airstream Bambi II – a rare model that was briefly produced in the 1960s. They found one in Hamburg, Germany, and had it shipped over to the US.

The client turned to Edmonds + Lee and Washington-based Silver Bullet Trailer to outfit the vehicle, with help from the client's daughter. The project offered Edmonds + Lee – a firm known for creating high-end modern homes – the opportunity to create an "ultra-condensed" environment with a heightened level of precision.

"Seamlessly integrated, multi-functional programmatic elements are something we've explored in every project, because they're an honest response to how people live their lives," said firm partner Robert Edmonds. "But in the constraints of this space, we needed to expand on that greatly, making the space not only highly functional within the spatial constraints, but also truly fluid in how it is lived."
Alberto Cosi. ImageBamboo Sports Hall for Panyaden International School / Chiangmai Life Construction
It is, once again, the time of year where we look towards the future to define the goals and approaches that we will take for our careers throughout the upcoming year. To help the millions of architects who visit ArchDaily every day from all over the world, we compiled a list of the most popular ideas of 2018, which will continue to be developed and consolidated throughout 2019.

Over 130 million users discovered new references, materials, and tools in 2018 alone, infusing their practice of architecture with the means to improve the quality of life for our cities and built spaces. As users demonstrated certain affinities and/or demonstrated greater interest in particular topics, these emerged as trends.

Below, we present the trends that will influence urban and architectural discussions in 2019, with the year-over-year growth rates (YoY) that compare to the statistics of searches from 2017 to 2018.

1. Ways of Living: Greater Interest in Small Scale Homes

The Tiny Houses (+75% YoY) concept emerged strongly at the beginning of 2018. Whether it is a movement in response to ideological or financial situations, architects have become more involved in the development of practical and innovative solutions for small spaces. We can also include the interest for- living in dense urban centers, leading to the challenge of designing basic housing programs for spaces under 40 m2. (Searches related to Small Apartments increased by 121% in 2018).

2. Inclusive Architecture: First-Rate Design for Diverse Populations

Accessibility (+108% YoY), Universal Design (+116%) and Inclusive Architecture (+132%) were some of the most searched concepts on ArchDaily in 2018. In previous years the focus was mostly on architecture for children and reduced mobility, whereas this year we saw more searches related to Architecture for the Elderly (+78% YoY) and different capacities related to mental health (Architecture & Mental Health +101% YoY; Space Psychology +210% YoY) and visual impairments (Architecture for the Blind +250% YoY).

3. The Middle-East: Underrepresented Territories in Evidence

Just as we saw increasing interest in emerging practices in Latin America (+103.82% YoY) in the last two years, in 2018 we also saw an increase in searches related to the Middle East (+124% YoY). The conflict in Syria (+93% YoY) placed architects’ focus on Rebuilding (+102% YoY). In addition, global events peaked the interest of architects due to the magnitude of the structures involved. Both the city of Dubai (+104% YoY), which will be the host of World Expo 2020, and Qatar (+220% YoY), which will host the next soccer 2022 World Cup, increased considerably in search queries. Hashim Sarkis (+236% YoY), the Lebanese architect who was appointed curator of the Architecture Exhibition for the next Venice Biennial (2020), was one of the most searched persons during 2018.
Glamping Hub
Tiny homes around the world offer guests stunning views and relaxing atmospheres, but this studio-style tiny retreat in New Zealand is right up the alley for anyone looking to reconnect with nature. Located in Akara, South Island, the compact, pitched-roof cabin has a floor-to-ceiling glass wall to provide stunning views of the rolling green landscape that leads out to the sea. If that’s not enough, the open-air front patio features a large cedar hot tub for watching the sun go down after a nice day of surfing in the bay.

Located just 30 minutes from Akara, South Island, this charming tiny cottage is tucked into a coastal sheep farm just steps away from beautiful Little Akaloa Bay. To get to the property, guests must make their way on a five-minute stroll through scenic native bush. Nestled into the tall trees and rolling green landscape, the tiny home is a welcoming beacon.

The tiny studio sleeps just two people, with a double-sized bed that folds up when not in use. There is a small kitchenette and bathroom. The home is kept warm and toasty during the chilly months thanks to a wood-burning stove. The massive, floor-to-ceiling glass wall looks out from the interior, providing stunning, unobstructed views all day long.

Of course, at the heart of the retreat is the outdoor space, which includes an open-air deck. There’s a barbecue grill and small dinette set for meals, as well as plenty of seating and a hammock for just taking in the views. However, the best place to relax in and around the tiny cabin is definitely the round cedar hot tub.

The picturesque area is the perfect spot for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts or those simply wanting a respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Guests will be able to enjoy the beautiful remote bays that surround the beautiful property by renting the surfboards, paddle boards and fishing equipment available.

Bruce Damonte
388 Fulton, located just west of the city’s Civic Center, lives up to its small-living promise. All its 35 units sold before the building’s completion.

Like many cities throughout the United States, San Francisco has responded to a very tight housing market by lowering the minimum size of a dwelling to enable so-called “micro-units,” which can be as small as 220 square feet. The city’s first market-rate micro-unit condo development, completed in 2016 by David Baker Architects (DBA), is a compelling advocate for compact living with its emphasis on outdoor space and neighborhood amenities over square footage.

“It’s the next generation of city living in San Francisco, which is more dense and more vertical,” says Daniel Simons, principal at DBA.

The project, 388 Fulton, is in Hayes Valley, an area just west of the city’s Civic Center. (The roof deck looks onto City Hall’s gilded Beaux Arts dome.) Gradually redeveloped after the demolition of an elevated freeway, the neighborhood has become a poster child for “hip” urbanism, characterized by mixed-use development and a blend of market-rate and affordable housing.

The six-story building appears as two separate volumes—one black, one white. The southernmost building, at the intersection of Fulton and Gough Streets, boasts a jazzy, curved facade of black glazed thin-brick tile and aluminum sunshades, while the other is clad in matte- white cement plaster. The duo echo the dark palette and contrast with the concave form of their neighbor across the street—an affordable housing project with 120 apartments that average just 329 square feet—also designed by DBA.

Comprising 35 micro-units—most of which are 325 square feet—and 34 modest-size one- and two-bedroom condos, 388 Fulton lives up to its small-living promise. All the units sold before the building’s completion, with micro-units going for $1,700 per square foot (on a par with Manhattan but significantly above the San Francisco average). And in lieu of parking spots, the architects provided 1:1 bike parking in double-decker storage racks in a dedicated lobby accessed by its own street entrance.

Rather than take up valuable street frontage, 388 Fulton’s main entrance is reached by traversing a private courtyard. Generous ground-floor retail spaces are occupied by a high-end sushi restaurant and artisanal doughnut shop, the latter of which is separated from the courtyard by a glass wall, making its customers part of the building’s inner life. The carefully landscaped enclosed space has a bridge spanning a large swale that serves as bo
tor even mathisen
for hikers journeying into the arctic circle, this small mountain cabin in norway provides much needed warmth and shelter. the project is the first of two warming huts designed to promote hiking in the town of hammerfest. the brief called for a small mountaintop structure that aligned with the existing landscape. the cabin includes a wood burning stove, simple seating, and views of the arctic terrain below.

the project was commissioned by the hammerfest chapter of the norwegian trekking association (DNT), who tasked norwegian firm SPINN arkitekter with designing the cabin. to translate their sketches of an organic wooden shell into reality, the architects at SPINN contacted FORMAT engineers to help them produce a structure that could be manufactured precisely enough to be built on top of a mountain by a group of local volunteers.

the site was mapped in 3D using a drone and photogrammetry software to give a detailed map of the surface, which was then used as a baseline for form-finding. the result was a wooden cross-laminated timber shell with 77 unique panels that fit together like a 3D puzzle. the design was then tested against simulated wind conditions to make sure that it would withstand winter arctic storms and extreme wind conditions, while remaining snow-free. 3D printing was used extensively to test out how the construction would fit together, and to test cladding options for the exterior.

as the design had a higher budget than the client expected, a visualization and animation were made as part of a crowdfunding effort to raise the money necessary to realize the project. local businesses volunteered materials and services, while kebony donated materials for the exterior cladding. according to the plan, the hiking association members would be responsible for raising the structure and transporting it to site.

Jeremy Gudac courtesy Land Ark RV
Tiny houses: still full of creativity

Another year, another crop of tiny houses to marvel over. In 2018, micro abodes of all kinds—camper vans, trailers, prefabs—showcased boundless ingenuity, and tiny houses on wheels were not left behind.

From good-looking builds that embraced the larger design trends (like all-black exteriors and modern farmhouse style) to one-of-a-kind gems (like one designed after a lunar lander), here are the tiny homes that stood out from the pack this year.

All-black modern stunner

Land Ark RV is making some of the stylish tiny houses around these days. The Draper here, like its predecessor the Drake, fully embraces the all-black exterior trend. For a fun contrast, the interior is all light pine with a sleek modern kitchen, a U-shaped sofa that transforms into a queen-size bed, full shower in the bathroom, a “mud room” with a washer/dryer unit, and built-in shelving throughout.

The one with a sliding roof

With the Cécile tiny house from French builder Optinid, we may have finally seen everything. The roof of the home slides right open to reveal the skies, if you ever feel too cramped or just want some fresh air. Another clever feature? A staircase that does triple duty as storage and desktop.

A tiny house designed after a lunar lander

Just kidding—now we’ve seen everything. Naval architect Kurt Hughes designed the hexagon-shaped structure after the lander that astronauts piloted during the Apollo 11 landing. Sitting on three steel beams, the 250-square-foot home has plenty of nooks and lookout opportunities, plus a compact kitchen, breakfast nook, bathroom, and sleeping space for two. .

Garna Raditya and Alissa Kolom via O2 Treehouse
Suspended 60 feet above ground in the majestic red wood forest of Bonny Doon, California, this stunning pinecone-shaped treehouse was carefully crafted to let guests reconnect with nature. Designed by builder Dustin Fieder of O2 Treehouse, the Pinecone, which is listed on Airbnb, is clad in multiple diamond-shaped panels carefully layered to create the unique shape. The all-transparent facade provides guests with stunning 360-degree views of the dense tree canopy.

Suspended high up in the majestic redwoods, the stunning treehouse is virtually camouflaged into the dense forest just north of Santa Cruz. Guests to the treehouse can access the gorgeous tiny treehouse via a 30 – 60 degree alternating step access ladder. However, the steepness and height of the ladder is not for the faint of heart and there is a harness and ascension safety system for those who would like to take the safer way up.

The entrance to the treehouse is through a trap door. Once inside, the full affect of the beautiful design is breathtaking. Multiple acrylic diamond-shaped panels were carefully crafted to create the pinecone-esque volume. On the interior, there is enough space for a double bed or two singles, both of which sit under a glass ceiling that provides the perfect opportunity to star gaze before drifting off to sleep. Guests can then enjoy the morning experience of filtered sunlight streaming through the transparent facade in the morning.