A Simple Life

Recently I have been reading Walden, Henry David Thoreau’s account of how he spent two years living in the woods adjacent to Lake Walden, in a house he built with his own hands, and living off the produce he grew himself and the livestock he managed to capture and kill himself. He wanted to reduce life to its essentials, and to free himself from all the encumbrances that ‘modern civilisation’ can entangle one.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear;” Thoreau

He managed to build his house for less than the rent he might have paid elsewhere for a year and the seeds and equipment he bought to cultivate soon paid off at harvest time. He spent a small portion of his time providing for his basic needs, and the rest of his time he was free to study, read, contemplate and enjoy the pristine environment that surrounded him. He undertook this experiment in 1845, so his experience resonates very deeply in present day, in the whirlwind of modern life, when we work hard to pay off loans for homes and lifestyles well beyond our basic needs, and when we would be hard pressed to say where the food we eat comes from.

The book is an inspiring read, and paints a compelling image of simple living... I wonder, what kind of place might one live in if what they purposefully sought was a simple life? Below are a few things that I think might come close:

The Cube Project is 3x3x3m compact home, an initiative of Dr Mike Page at the University of Hertfordshire.  It not only provides all the basics for life (and even a few non essentials, like a plasma screen) but also produces its own electricity through solar panels, incorporates some energy saving lighting and heating measures, and is built from environmentally friendly materials.

  You can view an animation of the Cube here.  

Internal + External Views of the Cube

The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company allows you to buy tiny houses, which you can either buy ready made, in kit form to put together yourself, or you can buy the plans and build the entire thing yourself. You get the shell of the building, and its up to you how you fit it out internally.  

The 'Domestic Transformer' is the home of Hong Kong based architect Gary Chang. He solved the problem of limited space by stacking different functions within sliding walls, that can then be manoeuvred in and out as required: if you want to use the kitchen, you slide the wall panels that reveal the kitchen; if you want to take a bath, slid the panels to reveal the bath. Watch this video of Chang in his apartment, explaining how it works.  

Lastly, its hard to go past a mobile home for simplicity: all your possessions reduced to what you can fit in your caravan or motorhome and the freedom to stop where you like at your leisure. The following images are from the home/office of  architect Matthew Hoffman, who renovated an 1978 Airstream.

October 29, 2011

by Meriam Salama
in Things We Love