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June 29, 2016

Old Ideas Come Again

John Sheehan

Despite a torrent of recent attention in the press, Micro- isn’t a new idea…

Architects have been noodling on the virtues compact living quarters for a good long time (and we’re no exception). I recalled a famous example recently that prompted an internet search that landed me here – at Le Corbusier’s famous Cabanon.

The only house Le Corbusier ever designed for himself and his wife, Le Cabanon is perched atop a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean in the remote town of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France. This dimunitive dwelling would feel right at home on our own Southen California seaside bluffs. At a mere 144 square feet, this pushes micro to the extreme – it’s really just a glorified and more-permanent version of a tent. In the hands of this master, however, every square centimeter was carefully conceived – nothing wasted, everything optimized.

Taking inspiration from steamship cabins, Le Corbusier organized his quarters around a collection of well-crafted built-ins: a table/desk, bookcases, two beds, a wardrobe, a sink, and a toilet tucked into one corner of the room. When open, small windows admit the ocean breeze and frame a million dollar view; when closed, the backsides of window shutters double as mirrors and a surface to decorate with hand-painted murals. No kitchen was included in the tiny home, as the couple preferred to dine at the café next door in the shade of a carob tree.

Corbu designed many other famous housing projects that explored efficiency, comfort, and art – but none as intimate and essential as this little gem.

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