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Architecture Architecture Tinyhouses

The aVOID tiny house and the start of a 'Migratory Neighborhood'.

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by: Hans van der Broek
The aVOID tiny house and the start of a 'Migratory Neighborhood'.

Leonardo Di Chiara is a 27 years old Italian architect and engineer fascinated by micro living and temporary architecture. He designed and built aVOID tiny house, where he is currently living in Berlin. His dream is to live inside big cities with his own tiny house. And this is how he came up with the idea of Migratory Neighbourhood. 

aVOID tiny house

aVOID is a mobile house prototype, drawing inspiration from the well-known American ‘tiny house’ typology. The 9 sqm living space is equipped with every comfort needed for everyday life and characterized by a strong adhesion to minimalist principles, the ‘less is more’ movement, and a more sustainable lifestyle. aVOID is the result of an artistic-architectural research project directed by Leonardo Di Chiara in collaboration with Tinyhouse University and supported by numerous internationally renowned technical partners.

The objective of the project is the field testing of the mobile ‘tiny house’ typology, the industrialisation of its construction process and raising social awareness of new housing policies such as the creation of urban migratory neighbourhoods. aVOID is the very first ‘tiny house’ entirely designed and manufactured in Italy, specifically in the very well-known Pesaro “District of Furniture”.
aVOID first conceptual sketch
aVOID first conceptual sketch where it is highlighted the row characteristic of the mobile house. (Sketch by Leonardo Di Chiara)

The idea

During all my life I have lived in a very small room in my parents’ apartment in Pesaro, Italy. I was forced every day to learn how to organize my space, fit all of my belongings inside the few cabinets, and to adapt my space to host my friends to play or later to study. I grew up with a minimalistic lifestyle, which certainly influences my design.

During my studies as an architect and engineer at the University of Bologna I decided to put into practice my knowledge and build my first house. Forced by the very little savings I had, I started from almost the same dimensions as my room: 9 sqm. I want to demonstrate to myself and to others that, with a strong adhesion to reductionism, it is possible to live respectably in such a tiny space. From past experience in my room I learnt the importance of emptiness – functionally and physiologically speaking. This is why I started developing transformable furniture where everything can be hidden into the wall surface when it is not in use, having as a result ‘a void’ ready to be used again.

But it was the meeting with Van Bo Le-Mentzel and his newly founded Tinyhouse University in Berlin that gave me the motivation to turn this dream into reality. Like many fresh graduate students, especially in architecture, I could not imagine setting my life in one place forever. Buying an apartment and renovating it was surely not a possibility for me. In Berlin I got to know the great potential of the American tiny house typology: small living structures on wheels that could fulfill my desire to be a “new generation nomad”.

So I didn’t waste any more time, I put all my efforts and my savings to build my very first house: aVOID. Now it is parked in the middle of Berlin inside the garden of Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum of Design. Living inside my tiny house is such an amazing experience and it helps me to improve the quality of the space. I am planning to move soon to Copenhagen, then to the Netherlands and maybe to Paris but I am already dreaming of the time when I will return home: Italy.»  – Leonardo Di Chiara

The construction site

Twenty-five technical supporters, which counts of more than 120 people together, participated in the construction of the prototype. A very big team if you consider that aVOID could be the smallest single house built in Italy.

The mobile apartment was manufactured entirely in Pesaro beginning in may 2017 until the 9th of august of the same year when it was presented for the first time to the public. The construction site literally moved within the house from one company to the next taking advantage from its configuration of wheels.

Starting from the trailer, the bearing frame structure, the insulation, the windows, the interior furniture, the exterior metal covering and all the home appliances were rapidly installed into the house. All the products and materials were donated by Italian and German companies which believed in the revolutionary impact of tiny houses into the real-estate market.

The interior
The murphy-bed comes out from the “functional” wall

The murphy-bed comes out from the “functional” wall: the empty space can be used as a bedroom. © Anna Fontanet Castillo

The interior of the small unit is inspired by the balance of emptiness, from which the name aVOID its derived. The house, composed by a single room lacking of any piece of furniture, is made functional by the activation of wall-mounted mobile devices, which enable different uses of the living space.

The “void” functions as space for meditation where the clear image and the pureness of the room are disturbed only by the spacing between the wooden panels. The homogeneity and the indeterminateness of the grey color are suddenly interrupted by the opening of reclinable devices, such as a murphy bed, tables, chairs, kitchen, a ladder and so on which reveal the domestic warmth of the wooden texture.

Tiny Living

The empty room allows different functions of the space. The reclinable bed also works as a sofa which becomes a bench if used in correlation with the foldable table.
4 eating peaop in an aVoid, seen from above
Leonardo Di Chiara is hosting his friends from Ambivalenz for lunch inside aVOID tiny house. © Tinyhouse Universit

The initial aseptic conformation is characterised by the prevalence of the longitudinal dimension of the interior space. This corridor-like image wants to represent the temporariness of the living conditions with a constant reminder of the migratory movement which characterises a “tiny house” on wheels. The activation of the different functional devices, like the double-side table, works instead in the opposite direction: the room expands horizontally and the natural wooden material gives a sense of relaxation in contrast with the anxiety of the initial condition.

My living experinece
Leonardo Di Chiara making a phonecall in an aVoid
 “Living inside aVOID is not, in my case, just a minimalistic challenge measurable in square meters. Rather it seems an intimate relationship that, over the past few months, is getting me in direct contact with my first creation as an architect. It happens often that I stop and think, watching the space in its different functional arrangements. The living experience allows me to verify, test and modify the house, implementing it with new solutions. For this reason I call aVOID an “open” prototype: a work-in-progress construction site. The tiny house is like a short instruction manual to reductionism. By itself, it teaches and pushes you to deprive yourself of unnecessary things, to consume less water and less energy, to put back your clothes in their place and to wash the dishes immediately after eating. The void, which is obtained by closing again all the wall-mounted furniture, is the refuge of my creativity. The absence of any visual distraction caused by personal objects or daily business makes room for my imagination, which is reflected into my future designs.” 

Leonardo Di Chiara sitting on the roof of his  aVOID
Leonardo Di Chiara living inside aVOID during his residency at Bauhaus Campus (Berlin, september 2017) © Leonardo Di Chiara

Test living

Is it really possible to live in a 9 sqm mobile house? How does the empty and minimalist space effect our domestic behaviour? Answering these questions is Luise Louè, a Munich based artist which took part in the test-living programme hosted inside aVOID Tiny House. Luise is actually designing her own tiny house “TiTo” which will also function as a small itinerary museum. How the night spent in aVOID will influence her design?

“I - Artist Luise Louè - entering for the first time into aVOID tiny house. (Bauhuas Campus Berlin, september 2017). The aVOID Tiny house of 9 sqm…and left it…one week later. What? Yes! Believe it or not: This was my wish when I had slept there for one night. I’m the kind of person who does five projects at one time; in my home I have stack of papers “Things to do”, and files of projects everywhere. But for creativity and recreation I need – a void – in the proper sense of the word: nothing to do, no plans, ennui, loneliness but opportunity to connect to the outside. So retreats are my base of being, working, health. I basically long for them all the time. So this week within “a void”, I would meditate, watch outside the window front for hours, eat good food, read in books, do yoga, work on my laptop, watch outside again, have a chat with some interesting people passing by, invite somebody, sleep. Nothing more. Marvelous.” –  Luise Louè
Artist Luise Louè entering for the first time into aVOID tiny house.

Artist Luise Louè entering for the first time into aVOID tiny house. (Bauhuas Campus Berlin, september 2017). © Leonardo Di Chiara

aVOID tiny house “test-living” programme is always looking for new testers. If you also want to be part of the experience, please send an e-mail to avoid@leonardodichiara.it explaining what push you to try living inside aVOID.

Bauhaus Campus

aVOID is part of Bauhaus Campus, an experimental tiny house village hosted inside the Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum of Design in Berlin from august 2017 until march 2018. Twenty designers, innovators, refugees as well as individuals from the cultural scene and the startup community are invited to create together a new model for a more equal society. Living inside their own designed tiny houses, they have the chance to test it in reality.

The house.

aVOID marks in the context of Bauhaus Campus a new typology in the “tiny house movement”: the row house. The small mobile home only opens windows to the gable ends and therefore enables the use of tiny houses in a row, which opens the possibility for new temporary city planning strategies.

The aVoid drwn in a row of other tinyhouses

Migratory neighborhood

“I was always fascinated by tiny houses but, at the same time, I was very skeptical about their usage. If you look at the typical american tiny house you would recognize that it has windows of all sides. This helps for sure to have a better feeling inside: the house seems bigger. But this means that you will always live as an independent unit, detached from the community. I wanted to live in cities and experience the challenge to mix different cultures, different habits, different houses. And so I thought, why not bringing tiny houses in the city? But we need a new typology, an urban tiny house typology. This is why my aVOID tiny house doesn’t have any windows on the longer sides: it is a row house. It doesn’t make any sense if there is no neighbour living next to you. I am developing this ideas at the Tinyhouse University in Berlin. We are a diverse team which believes that we can still densifAy our city centres. How? With skyscrapers? No, with movable tiny houses. My next step after the Bauhaus Campus is to open with them a urban settlement that I will call “migratory neighbourhood”. Migratory because the houses like birds can migrate from a location to another always going to occupy the spaces which are not used by the city in that specific moment. Birds move for food and better climate conditions. Tiny houses change their location depending on the unused spaces inside the existing urban structure. Imagine a garden during the coldest winter time or a public school parking lot during the summer break. It is a liquid solution, the tiny settlement can adjust itself depending by the continuator and neighbourhood because it is fully part of the city, it is just tiny and movable. A deeply rooted settlement in the existing urban community which takes advantage of the complex infrastructure the municipality already provides to its residents. What does the city get in return? Life in places which are forgot, creativity, new ideas, diversity and openness to foreign cultures. Next year I will be back with my house to Italy where I want to open the very first migratory neighbourhood in the city centre of Milan. It is such an amazing city. I have to talk to politician but I already know where it could be settled. It is an empty space at the end of a railway track not too far from the Duomo. Who wants to move in?” – Leonardo Di Chiara

Do you like this idea? Your feedback is very important. I am collecting requests from tiny housers or potential ones to have numbers to support this concept. I will go to talk to politicians to try this experiment in January 2018! Please write me to avoid@leonardodichiara.it or to the facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/migratoryneighborhood/.

What could be the future of the American “tiny house” typology in Europe? Could it solve the emergencies of a metropolis like overpopulation or apartment shortage? How we could shape an urban neighbourhood on wheels? What benefits could emerge from such a living system for the nomadic inhabitants and for the city itself?
Drawn aVoid as opart of a row of Tiny houses
Be careful, “migratory neighborhood” is model not a the name of a singular artistic project or a research experiment. It aims at creating a repeatable structure for temporary and movable urban settlements of tiny houses. A network of migratory neighborhoods  opened with similar methodology in different cities, potentially all over the world. How all these neighborhood can be connected? How can tiny housers benefit from this network? Easy: with technology.

Leonardo Di Chiara

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World traveler, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Has countless ideas and set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Has an opinion about everything and unlimited thoughts about a better world. He likes hiking and climbed numerous 5.000 m.
World traveler, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Has countless ideas and set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Has an opinion about everything and unlimited thoughts about a better world. He likes hiking and climbed numerous 5.000 m.
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