In exploring the world of miniature Gaston Bachelard wrote. “One must go beyond logic in order to experience what is large in what is small (p. 150).” Gulliver’s Travel’s, Alice in Wonderland and Horton Hears a Who have for generations enthralled us with their logic defying magical miniature worlds. It seems Swift, Carroll and Seuss (or should we say Giesal) recognise with Bachelard how the miniature reveals that which is overlooked or unseen in human experience.
My research is showing that much of the public conversation surrounding tiny house trends relates to affordability factors and financial freedom. I mean if the average Australian home at around 240 square meters costs around $1450 per square meter to build than you don’t have to be very good at maths to understand a house that is only say 25 square meters is going to be much, much cheaper. That’s a completely logical reason to go tiny isn’t it?. Nevertheless, it seems to me that there is something missing from these public conversations. It would appear that the commodification of tiny houses completely overlooks the experience of living tiny. So to echo Bachelard, do we connect to something larger when we seek to live smaller?
There are many things that are bound up in our relationship with place/space, particularly home places/spaces. There are symbolic, political, emotional, biological and social dimensions ascribed to our meanings of home not to mention we have intellectual, imaginary and symbolic concepts of home. These concepts and our connections, to a sense of home are so intrinsic in nature that Bachelard claims we can understand more about self-identity through our relationships with place than we can through psychoanalysis. Bachelard was of course referring to an insider view of home place/space through the everyday lived experience. When we apply notions of housing, affordability, or land use to home place/space we are looking at place from the outside. In the context of this article I would add the notion of dimensionality – the question how big is a tiny presupposes a view from the outside.
After a quick tour of Australian housing regulations, tiny house/tiny living web pages and social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest I constructed the above infographic to illustrate tiny house/tiny living in In terms of their pure physical dimensions. Definitely helpful for explaining to people what I mean when I say a tiny house trend. Yes, in case you were wondering, I have similar guidelines for assessing what to include or exclude as a tiny house in the research. While these trends are hugely fascinating and many of the design features and transformations are innovative and the use of space creative they fail to help us understand what it means to live tiny.
In his work The Poetics of Space Bachelard uses the motifs of the nest and the shell to explore our intimate connections with home spaces/places. Drawing on these motifs I am inspired by how both the nest and the shell are houses formed by the body of the inhabitant. Through exploring tiny houses by the ways they are shaped and inhabited by human bodies, I hope to expand the focus on tinys from that of a fixed measurable form to one that can only be measured by the embodied dreams and desires of the inhabitant. So, when we’re asked the question how big is a tiny? Should we respond with a quantifiable measure or should we, with the whisper of all magical miniatures answer. They are immeasurable.
Bachelard, G. 1964, The Poetics of Space, Beacon Press, Boston.