Short Exploration of Space

What happens when space is a luxury good

It is expected that by the year 2030 almost 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. What will that do to society and the spaces we live in? What happens when space becomes a precious good?

For my course 'Design Futures' we started designing for the year 2047. Due to overpopulation people have to live in very small spaces. By thinking in extremes (living on 4m2) I had to question every object in a living space. What is left is only the essential for live, work and play.

To question the future of living I am using a method called speculative design. To discover new insights about the future of living I am planning a workshop in Amsterdam. Let me know if you are interested in joining the workshop.

I want to share a few of the highlights that I found during my search for small, but livable space.

Small apartment in Hong Kong, courtesy of Micheal Wolf

Japanese culture

In my exploration of space I naturally turned to Japanese cultures; more precisely: sleeping pods. There is something magical to pods and capsules. They bring the coziness of a small tent and techniness of Japan. But above all sleeping pods show a glimpse of an dystopian future where private space is a luxury good.

I stumbled on a building by the Japanese Architect Kisho Kurokawa. The building is founded on a movement called 'Metabolism'. The idea was to build flexible living pods that could be easily maintained and replaced throughout the years.

The building is made up of 140 concrete pods that are preassembled in a factory. The individual capsules are 2.3m × 3.8m x 2.1m, just enough for one person to live in; although probably a bit too small for my size.


Each pod comes with a mini fridge, freezer, small TV, radio, and bathroom with a bathtub. The main window in each pod is very large, and it's this big window is what makes these pods so special.

Kurokawa envisioned little pod rooms that could be swapped around. Unfortunately that original vision never came true. By now the building looks abandoned. But inside, now 48 years later, people still live there.

And that's exactly what the Japanese photographer Noritaka Minami captured. He made this beautiful photos series about the different pods in this building. They show an appeal, a vie extrème, to living small. Enjoy:

Courtesy of Noritaka Minami
Courtesy of Noritaka Minam

A more modern version of Kurokawa's metabolism are the capsule hotels in Japan. One even more modern than the other, all with their own modern, futuristic, or cute look.

Take for example the 9 hour capsule hotels in Kyoto. You pay for one hour to get ready for bed, seven hours to sleep, and one hour to get up in the morning.

9 hour capsule hotels in Kyoto

Smoker pods

Finally, during that same exploration of Japanese pod apartments, I also stumbled upon this picture of private smoking pods. These are the kind of pictures I stroll for on the internet. I love everything about this picture. The style, the moustache, the furniture. Let smokers smoke in their smokerpods, while living that sixties style.

Private smoking pods in 60's style


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