Living in the Water Pipe

Space is scarce on the ground, the square meter is expensive and the competition is fierce – the cities of the future are oriented upwards, above all. However, the most important maxim for new living is: less is more.

Living on nine square meters: the "OPod" is ideal for the tight budget. Photo: James Law Cybertecture

Living on nine square meters: the “OPod” is ideal for the tight budget. Photo: James Law Cybertecture

The trend is towards restriction, and apartments are becoming increasingly smaller, as not only older but also young people often live alone. The seniors of increasingly ageing societies want to remain independent for as long as possible, and the millennials born at the end of the 20th century are reluctant to settle permanently. For some time now, single households have dominated North America and Western Europe, almost one in five in Germany lives as a soloist, and in large cities it is even one in two inhabitants. Mini households are the fastest-growing group in the world, according to WSP, a consulting firm for engineers. And in view of horrendous rents, mini- or micro-apartments are the order of the day.

The OPod is stackable and can also fill out spaces that are difficult to build on. Photo: James Law Cybertecture

The OPod is stackable and can also fill out spaces that are difficult to build on. Photo: James Law Cybertecture

For the tight budget, the architecture firm James Law Cybertecture in Hong Kong has built a dwelling in a concrete water pipe. The “OPod” measures nine square meters, including kitchen and shower, and is particularly suitable as a temporary solution for students. At rental prices of up to 2,000 euros for an apartment with only one room in one of the most expensive cities in the world, the prototype at a price of around 12,000 euros appears to be an option, especially as it is stackable and can also fill out spaces that are difficult to build on, for example under bridges or in niches between houses.

New housing solutions for the little money

The first building with 55 micro-apartments in New York was constructed from modules. This saved the residents construction noise and accelerated the process. 40 percent of the 23 to 25 meter units have to be rented as social housing. The rush of interested parties was great: 60,000 people wanted to get hold of one of the tiny apartments.

But not everyone likes a scenario in which the private world fits on a few letterheads. And that’s why inhabited units are also getting bigger: those who don’t want to get lonely as singles or senior citizens rely on sharing. Not only guest rooms and common rooms, but also larger kitchens will be shared more often in the skyscrapers of the future – privately financed and used collectively. Thus you can afford more amenities than you can on your own. A social environment close by is also important, because those who work from home, order their purchases on the Internet and have them delivered do not actually have to leave their own four walls.

A prime example of is a prime example of expensive living that aspires to heaven: the Jeddah Tower. Photo: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture / Jeddah Economic Company

A prime example of expensive living that aspires to heaven: the Jeddah Tower. Photo: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture / Jeddah Economic Company

But the planners are far from concentrating only on space-saving or affordable solutions for the masses. The target group for living in the hip city with a co-working space around the corner are especially high earners with a digital lifestyle and solvent pensioners. “People live in a hotel-like environment and pay extra for it,” is how Igor Kebel from the Australian architecture firm Elenberg Fraser describes the concept. Cinemas, lounges or wellness facilities in the same block are also part of it. The almost completed Jeddah Tower on the west coast of Saudi Arabia is a prime example of expensive living that aspires to heaven. With a height of around 1,000 meters, it shows what is already possible in terms of construction technology. On an area of 530,000 square meters, investments of 1.2 billion dollars are to provide space for luxury apartments with service, offices and an extravagant hotel in addition to luxury apartments.

World-wide pull into the cities continues

“All over the world, the construction industry is working on new forms of housing that are affordable, environmentally friendly, flexible, chic, healthy or divisible,” writes Boston Consulting Group in a new study. The alternatives to conventional houses account for four to six percent of all new buildings so far. A further increase would be urgently necessary, because the world-wide pull into the cities continues undiminishedly. This is not only due to the fact that the centers of the economy magically attract the rural population or migrant workers.

The effect is reinforced by further population growth in developing and less developed countries. For example, the United Nations expects the number of people to rise from 7.3 billion in 2015 – 2.5 billion in 1950 – to 9.7 billion by 2050. By 2030, around 60 percent of the world’s population will be urban dwellers, which is about a billion more than today. One of the greatest challenges of our time is to create affordable living space while meeting the needs of people, nature and the climate.

Living under the bridge another way: The OPod offers itself as a cheap temporary solution. Photo: James Law Cybertecture The OPod is a dwelling in a concrete water pipe. Photo: James Law Cybertecture The OPod has everything you need to live, including shower and kitchen. Photo: James Law Cybertecture The prototype costs around 12,000 euros. Photo: James Law Cybertecture The green building "Agora Garden" in Taipei aims to reduce the ecological footprint. Photo: Vincent Callebaut Architectures / www.vincent.callebaut.org The goal of the Agora Gardens is a new lifestyle in harmony with nature. Photo: Vincent Callebaut Architectures / www.vincent.callebaut.org The Jeddah Tower houses luxury apartments. Photo: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture / Jeddah Economic Company The tower on the west coast of Saudi Arabia rises to a height of around 1,000 meters and reaches the clouds. Photo: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture / Jeddah Economic Company

Urbanization often still means petrification, even if architects like the Belgian Vincent Callebaut seem to have taken a different path a long time ago. With the help of algae and the plastic waste of the Pacific, his visionary dome city “Aequorea” floating on the sea off Rio is to be created. Fruits and vegetables could grow on the surface of the futuristic buildings, and water turbines at the bottom of the ocean would supply the energy needs of 20,000 people. Callebaut, who calls himself archibiotect, designs ecological constructions such as the “Agora Garden” in Taipei. The building, which is completely recyclable and planted with numerous plants, is intended to reduce the ecological footprint and stand in the way of global warming. The goal is a new lifestyle in harmony with nature. The entire building is inhabited by 42 families. An elevator, which brings the own car up to one of the 500 square meters large apartments, also belongs to it.

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