Living Large In Narrow Houses

  • Architect Bassam El-Okeily describes the concept of The Narrow House (see photo below, taken by Tim van de Velde) as follows:

    “What‘s a house? A space to live,
    To project our happiness between four walls,
    Then to spread out our vanity outside these walls.
    Can there be space for something else?
    A space for our melancholy, our scars,
    Then the luggage of our memories.
    It is a narrow house which leaves with its threshold,
    Our thousand and one smooth and invented lives.
    It is a narrow house which offers to a narrow street:
    The history of a man, a woman and their passions.
    History of a house imagined to live.
    But also to remain.”

    We tend to think of houses as fortresses of four walls. The bigger they get, the safer and comfortable we feel. The movement of narrow houses led by the Japanese architects questions this norm by challenging one dimension of houses, the width. As NPR writes, the Japanese architects “have turned necessity into virtue, vying to design unorthodox and visually stunning houses on remarkably narrow pieces of land” such as the ‘o house’ by Hideyuki Nakayama or Lucky Drops by Atelier Tekuto.

    In Europe, Jacob Szczęsny, from the Polish studio Centrala, designed an art installation which might become the world’s narrowest house. The 60inches wide house, complete with bedroom, lounge, bathroom and kitchen, will fill in a thin alley between two buildings in Warsaw, Poland.

    “Ermitage will be a workplace, a hermitage created for an outstanding Isreali writer, Etgar Keret. Besides, it will also fulfill a function of a studio for invited guests — young creators and intellectualists from all over the world. The residential program, conducted in the heart of Wola, is supposed to produce creative work conditions and become a significant platform for world intellectual exchange.”

    No, narrow does not mean tiny. Not everyone can afford these small yet professionnally designed houses either. Let’s hope that more and more related projects will try to combine creativity and elegance with socially sustainable housing.