The Swiss Army knife of apartment designs provides 1,000 square feet of living space in an apartment half the size.
As cities get more crowded and more expensive, tiny apartments keep getting smaller. And while transformable, space-saving rooms aren’t new–even Thomas Jefferson had an early version of a folding Murphy bed at Monticello–they’re a little awkward to actually live with.
This is why a new apartment design aims to make it easier to live in a tiny space. As you shift activities, you push a button, and the whole apartment automatically rearranges around you.
The design was partially inspired by a simple fact–a single person living in a studio apartment can only be in one space at a time. If you’re in the kitchen, you’re not in the bathroom. If you’re in bed, you’re not in the living room. So is it really necessary to have separate rooms? By condensing everything into a single space, the designers found that they could provide about 100 square meters of living space in an apartment half the size.
Flexible walls slide along grooves in the floor, powered by a motor under the floorboards (the walls can also move manually, for anyone who wants to avoid the accompanying app). As the walls shift into position for a particular activity, they also change shape; lines built into each walls flex and turn into furniture, like a table and chairs. Each wall is made from polypropylene, which the designers realized was flexible enough to bend without wearing out, but also strong enough to support someone sitting or lying on it after it’s transformed into a chair or sofa.
"Like with a Swiss pocketknife, only the desired shapes are being folded out, while the others stay razor-thin in the existing walls," the Hyperbody design team, students at TU Delft in the Netherlands, wrote on their website. "A high variety of different spatial configurations is possible, creating only the spaces which are needed at a certain time…The pop-up apartment allows to live in a continuously changing space, real-time tailored to the wishes of the future user."
Since space for housing in the Netherlands is limited, the students designed the apartment to fit into an underused resource–empty office buildings. "In Holland, especially, there’s a large number of office spaces that are lying empty right now," says Nimish Biloria, an assistant professor at TU Delft who helped guide the project. "The idea was how can we literally convert whatever exists. It’s a shell structure, and within the shell we start inserting these completely adaptable systems."
The designers created both a digital model and a full-scale prototype of the apartment over four months of research. Though it’s conceptual–and there are details to work out with both the materials and usability–it’s something they believe could be built. As technology improves, the designers say it could become even more realistic. "I’m pretty sure that five or 10 years down the line we can do much better than this," Biloria says.
Adele Peters is a writer who focuses on sustainability and design and lives in Oakland, California. She’s worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley. Continued
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