Alex Haw reviews a bigger book about the very small
Micro: Very Small Buildings. By Ruth Slavid.
Laurence King, 2007. £19.95
Ruth Slavid’ s Micro expands on the research published six years earlier in Phyllis Richardson’s smaller reader, XS: Big Ideas, Small Buildings. Though Slavid’s investigation is smaller still, this book is larger.
Micro offers a diverse compendium of new and lesser known works that occasionally struggle to attain the status of being ‘very’ anything at all. The conceptualisation behind each building, like some of Slavid’s text, can be pretty light. I wish she’d have written more.
The book cleaves the collection into five loose and overlapping categories: Public Realm; Community Spaces; On the Move; Compact Living; and Extra Space.
Slavid unearths some compelling eccentricities: Colani and Haus’s Rotorhaus with its rotating injection-moulded kitchen, bedroom and bathroom in turn, or Gilles Ebersolt’s Solvinpretzel, its loopy inflatable loops hovering above the forest canopy. The majority of projects offer more conventional takes on smallness.
The overall impression is of robust little timber houses, more DIY than future thinking, but little sense of what ‘very small’ really means and requires. The chapter introductions give overviews of much more stimulating precedent work – nothing in the book rivals the elegantly radical Haus-Rucker’Co’s inflatable office.
None of the older projects pictured at the start of each chapter are offered serious competition by the contemporary projects. The ghosts of Archigram’s work are missed.
Prefab predominates. Garden shed enthusiast will be delighted. Those seeking more experimental ideas will have to go elsewhere.
Resume: Boxes beat pods hands-down in the war of the small