Experimental tiny house settlements in the European context


  • Andrea Contursi


housing issues, minimal dwellings, tiny houses, urban ecology, participation and governance, urban planning challenges in the 21st century


The increasing quest for affordable housing and the impelling necessity to reduce the consumption of increasingly expensive energy sources has resulted in recent years in the growing interest of the public toward so-called “tiny houses”: small residences with minimal floor area to be heated and maintained and highest exploitation of all available inner space. “Tiny house” is in reality a quite inappropriate and scientifically inaccurate term to describe what should be rather simply called “small house” or “minimal dwelling”.

However, given the current great commercial popularity of the term “tiny house”, I will keep using this phrase throughout the paper. I will in any case exclude from my discussion the tiny house on wheels (since it is topologically closer to a trailer or a caravan than to a proper house and fits better in temporary camping areas than in a stable settlement), focusing instead on modular and container-like houses. I will also exclude multi-story housing from my discussion to focus solely on single-family houses with a garden (either as detached houses or as row house groups).

In the European context, the so-called “tiny house” – which is already quite common in countries with large buildable land such as Australia and the USA – has to face the restrictions of densely inhabited urban areas and rigid building regulations, which are normally more suitable for more traditional housing forms. In this paper, I will illustrate the broader historical development of minimal dwellings and the change of paradigm which has taken place in the last 100 years, concerning both social targets and public reception of the small house.

The content of this paper is based both on theoretical research on texts and paradigmatic examples and on my own direct experience as a planning architect currently involved in an ongoing planning process.