Saturday, February 26, 2011

To Build, Perchance to Dwell –

Ay, there’s the microhouse.

Last year in my daughter’s homeschool co-op, she attempted to help build an 8' Microhouse a la Ken Isaacs (quintessential hippie buildings of the 1970s - you can actually download a copy of his classic book, How to Build Your Own Living Structure here).  

From Ken Isaacs' book, How to Build Your Own Living Structure.

Maybe it’s my own experience with having the only custom-made geodesic dome play structure in the neighborhood (Dad’s always been a real Buckminster Fuller fan), or my fascination with small spaces, but I was very excited when she undertook the project with her homeschool friends.

Like our dome, except it was made of wood and painted blue.
With minimal spatial, geometric, and woodworking skills, a group of ten kids attempted to make the biggest of Isaacs portable structures with his plans.  When it was completed, you couldn't get me to step inside of it, but they did learn how to measure, calculate, cut, carry, and construct things with crappy wood: overall, a worthwhile experience. 
And she still has all her digits! 
But still, I yearn for the microhouse village in my own backyard.

From Ken Isaacs' How to Build Your Own Living Structure.
I was reminded of all this when I saw this article in Thursday’s New York Times.  Mr. Diedricksen has done this very thing in his own backyard, and with his own designs. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a Save the World vision for these microhouses; I have long been interested in the basic human need of shelter in all its variations. The beauty of these little huts is that they offer the ability to gain, through a hands-on approach, some knowledge and skills in not only construction principles, but also ingenious space saving ideas in one small, but human-scale, self-contained, and affordable project.

As for Mr. Diedricksen, while I think he may have cut off his ponytail, the hippie is strong within him. Nonetheless, I enjoy his efforts in these mini-construction projects. His video for the pull-down table/fort that he designed for his kids is particularly fun.

More of his videos can be found at the tiny yellow house


Earl3d said...

Neat! Years ago, when I worked for another architect, we did an addition for some folks who had a little village of huts in their backyard, just like that!

They were great folks, total hippies. The parents were musicians and taught music. They had a tiny house, a disproportionate portion of which was taken up by the grand piano in the little living room.

They mostly lived outside in the little hut village.

I'm going to look for that book. Thanks for a fun post!

Lynne said...

I'd take a Modern Shed anytime, but the little pods simply fascinate me.

Since my main interest in having my daughter do the project was in having her actually build something (and they really didn't complete it) I've been thinking about undertaking something similar in our own backyard.

I'll keep you posted if anything comes of it.

In the meantime, here's a post with cool pictures of the construction of an Isaacs' microhouse last year.

Lars Godthaab Nielsen said...

Dear Lynne.

I am building a Ken Isaacs microhouse in Hong Kong right now, as an experiment in minimalism and sustainability: I'll pair down my belongings, learn how to use less resources and live more sustainable and how to do the things that i really want, as opposed to being on the consumerism keeping up with the Joneses race.

If you have any photos or any other details of the build then I would love to see how your daughters group did and what they got out of it. Whatever the finished result, I think it is awesome that they learn functionally through a real project, instead of through disjointed text book examples.

Building it is going well, blocking about it seems to have a bit steeper learning curve. I have all my pictures and descriptions on my Facebook site and will put them on my blog as soon as I figure out the picture uploading details.

Best regards,


Visit my blog

Lynne said...

Thanks for the comment, Lars. I think what the children learned the most is how tight woodworking tolerances are! Best wishes in your efforts.


Scroll down on that link for many pictures and a running commentary of his experience with the microhouse.