Talk:OSE Microhouse Prototype

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I think it might be helpful to establish a shared vision for the house.

What is the intended purpose?

A house for one person, a couple, or a family (any mix of individuals that call themselves as such)?

After studying A Pattern Language, there are some design considerations that I am confident will help to make future buildings more alive, comfortable and whole.

You can download the book here, but for now I copied some text below:

The first pattern considers the process of choosing a site for the house.


Buildings must always be built on those parts of the land which are in the worst condition, not the best.

This idea is indeed very simple. But it is the exact opposite of what usually happens; and it takes enormous will power to follow it through. What usually happens when someone thinks of building on a piece of land? He looks for the best site—where the grass is most beautiful, the trees most healthy, the slope of the land most even, the view most lovely, the soil most fertile—and that is just where he decides to put his house. The same thing happens whether the piece of land is large or small. On a small lot in a town the building goes in the sunniest corner, wherever it is most pleasant. On a hundred acres in the country, the buildings go on the most pleasant hillside. It is only human nature; and, for a person who lacks a total view of the ecology of the land, it seems the most obvious and sensible thing to do. If you are going to build a building, " it in the best possible place." But think now of the three-quarters of the available land which are not quite so nice. Since people always build on the one- quarter which is healthiest, the other three-quarters, already less healthy ecologically, become neglected. Gradually, they become less and less healthy. Who is ever going to do anything on that corner of the lot which is dark and dank, where the garbage accumulates, or that part of the land which is a stagnant swamp, or the dry, stony hillside, where no plants are growing? Not only that. When we build on the best parts of the land, those beauties which are there already—-the crocuses that break through the lawn each spring, the sunny pile of stones where lizards sun themselves, the favorite gravel path, which we love walking on—it is always these things which get lost in the shuffle. When the construction starts on the parts of the land which are already healthy, innumerable beauties are wiped out with every act of building. People always say to themselves, well, of course, we can always start another garden, build another trellis, put in another gravel path, put new crocuses in the new lawn, and the lizards will find some other pile of stones. But it just is not so. These simple things take years to grow—it isn't all that easy to create them, just by wanting to. And every time we disturb one of these precious details, it may take twenty years, a lifetime even, before some comparable details grow again from our small daily acts. If we always build on that part of the land which is most healthy, we can be virtually certain that a great deal of the land will always be less than healthy. If we want the land to be healthy all over—all of it—then we must do the opposite. We must treat every new act of building as an opportunity to mend some rent in the existing cloth; each act of building gives us the chance to make one of the ugliest and least healthy parts of the environment more healthy—as for those parts which are already healthy and beautiful—they of course need no attention. And in fact, we must discipline ourselves most strictly to leave them alone, so that our energy actually goes to the places which need it. This is the principle of site repair.

The fact is, that current development hardly ever does well by this pattern: everyone has a story about how some new building or road destroyed a place dear to them. The following news article from the San Francisco Chronicle (February 6, 1973) head- lined "Angry Boys Bulldoze House" struck us as the perfect case: Two 13-year old boys—enraged over a swath of suburban homes being built in the midst of their rabbit-hunting turf—were arrested after they admitted flattening- one of the homes with a purloined bulldozer. According to the Washoe County sheriff's office, the youths started up a bulldozer used at the construction site about four miles north of Reno, then plowed the sturdy vehicle through one of the homes four times late last Friday night. The ranch-style house—which was nearly completed—was a shambles when workmen arrived yesterday morning. Damage was estimated at $7800 by the contractor. One of the boys told authorities the home along with several others nearby was ruining a "favorite rabbit-hunting preserve." The two boys were booked on charges of felonious destruction. The idea of site repair is just a beginning. It deals with the problem of how to minimize damage. But the most talented of traditional builders have always been able to use built form, not only to avoid damage, but also to improve the natural landscape. This attitude is so profoundly different from our current view of building, that concepts which will help us decide how to place buildings to improve the landscape don't even exist yet. Therefore: On no account place buildings in the places which are most beautiful. In fact, do the opposite. Consider the site and its buildings as a single living eco-system. Leave those areas that are the most precious, beautiful, comfortable, and healthy as they are, and build new structures in those parts of the site which are least pleasant now.


The shape of a building has a great effect on the relative degrees of privacy and overcrowding in it, and this in turn has a critical effect on people's comfort and well being.

The shape of a building has a great effect on the relative degrees of privacy and overcrowding in it, and this in turn has a critical effect on people's comfort and well being. There is widespread evidence to show that overcrowding in small dwellings causes psychological and social damage. (For example, Wiliam C. Loring, "Housing Characteristics and Social Disorganization," Social Problems, January 1956; Chombart de Lauwe, Famille et Habitation, Editions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, 1959; Bernard Lander, Towards an Understanding of Juvenile Delinquency, New York: Columbia University Press, 1954.) Everyone seems to be on top of everyone else. Everything seems to be too near everything else. Privacy for individuals or couples is almost impossible. It would be simple to solve these problems by providing more space—but space is expensive, and it is usually impossible to buy more than a certain very limited amount of it. So the question is: For a given fixed area, which shape will create the greatest feeling of spaciousness? There is a mathematical answer to this question. The feeling of overcrowding is largely created by the mean point-to-point distances inside a building. In a small house these distances are small—as a result it is not possible to walk far inside the house nor to get away from annoying disturbances; and it is hard to get away from noise sources, even when they are in other rooms.

To reduce this effect the building should have a shape for which the mean point-to-point distance is high. (For any given shape, we may compute the mean or average distance between two randomly chosen points within the shape). The mean point- to-point distance is low in compact shapes like circles and squares, and high in those distended shapes like long thin rectangles, and branched shapes, and tall narrow towers. These shapes increase the separation between places inside the building and therefore increase the relative privacy which people are able to get within a given area.

Of course, in practice there are limits on the long-thinness of a building. If it is too long and thin, the cost of walls becomes prohibitive, the cost of heating is too high, and the plan is not useful. But this is still no reason to settle only for box-like forms. A small building can actually be much narrower than people imagine. It can certainly be much narrower than the 25 foot width proposed in WINGS OF LIGHT (107). We have seen successful buildings as narrow as 12 feet wide—indeed, Richard Neutra's own house in Los Angeles is even less.

And a long thin house can also be a tower, or a pair of towers, connected at ground level. Towers, like floors can be much narrower than people realize. A building which is 12 feet square, and three stories high, with an exterior stair, makes a wonderful house. The rooms are so far apart, psychologically, that you feel as if you are in a mansion.

Therefore: In small buildings, don't cluster all the rooms together around each other; instead string out the rooms one after another, so that distance between each room is as great as it can be. You can do this horizontally—so that the plan becomes a thin, long rectangle; or you can do it vertically —so that the building becomes a tall narrow tower. In either case, the building can be surprisingly narrow and still work— 8,10, and 12 feet are all quite possible.