micro living mega lifestyle / by Nathan Judd

The next wave of affordable accommodation in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia needs to be - micro-units -  which are designed for a new demographic that no longer aspires to, or needs, large living areas or the ‘things’ that clutter space and restrict mobility.  Free of excessive rents or purchase price and with access to the amenity and community that city living offers, micro-units respond brilliantly to contemporary urban and fiscal environments and promote personal and community well-being.

There is a global trend in niche housing for people who aspire to equal access to the benefits of an active city lifestyle without the hefty price tag.  Micro-living has roots In Asia, where expectations of personal living space run secondary to city amenity.  In Europe, apartment micro-living has historically been the norm reflecting the value placed on urban density, the public realm and community over the private dwelling.  America too is embracing the trend as affordable housing in dense urban areas becomes a priority for governments.

We have developed several micro-unit proposals over the last year to test the opportunities that this type of housing could bring to Canberra. What we have found is they are a eminently flexible housing form, can be adaptable and accessible, offer opportunities for modular construction and could integrate well into otherwise conventional developments.

The attached imagery was developed for a recent entry in the NEAT - New Experimental Housing Typology competition. This scheme explored the opportunity for a narrow site to  offers studio and loft apartments positioned in a set of independent buildings linked by bridged walkways and a rooftop garden.  Small can be smart.  Good design rather than size delivered a rich spatial experience. The micro-units provide an enjoyable living experience with a feeling of light and space.  Owners want to spend time in their micro home and invite friends over.  The interiors are flexible, funky and clever delivering functionality without sacrificing form.

Prestigious modular expression maximised the orientation and street frontage.  Timber lined walls and soffits and battening were employed to give warmth to interiors and add interest to the façade.  Access to units is via secure rear circulation with upper levels accessible by lift and adaptable units available. Front entries from the street and dispersed resident and visitor carparking create a pleasant and inviting streetscape. 

Professional costing advice points to Micro-units offering the Canberra community a new type of housing at a price point of around $220,000 a Micro-unit. Although this likely cost is a fantastic breakthrough, it is really that Micro-units are proving that affordable lifestyle in otherwise unaffordable city areas is achievable and can encourage well-being and social interaction. For a diverse slice of the Canberra community, particularly childless singles and couples of any age, micro-units will offer the opportunity to buy or rent an affordable urban home with the city and all its amenity at their doorstep. When this comes to pass it will infuse out city with a new vitality!