Shared space is double the space

Conditions in Europe are not yet what they are in Japan, even if London is fast closing on Tokyo or Osaka. But the Old Continent is fast catching up: The housing market in the metropolises and big cities is quite literally getting ever tighter. So why not turn to the Japanese for expert help, as they know all about urban densities? MINI presented a residential installation at the Salone del Mobile 2016 which it developed together with Yokohama architects ON design and the Berlin office of international engineering consultants Arup. The central issue addressed was how to live on an even smaller footprint? The answer of MINI LIVING: Shared space is double the space.

Together you have more

An apartment with only 30 square meters of space for everything: Kitchenette, workstation, living and sleeping area, and a bath. In a former industrial building at Milan’s Porta Genova MINI displayed a fully equipped and thoughtfully designed one-room apartment which included everything that today’s urbanites could need for their everyday lives. That said, when so many functions are housed in so few square meters things invariably get tight. The MINI LIVING concept centers on sharing in order to foster a pleasant sense of spaciousness all the same. The idea: Several such small units share communal zones outside the apartments themselves, spaces for social interaction and new experiences.

“How to creatively use the space?” is how MINI LIVING project manager Oke Hauser describes the approach. “The focus is on how to live innovatively in a small space and nevertheless not have to dispense with anything. Or rather to even gain added value by sharing things.” The “creative use of space” has been MINI’s credo since 1959 – which is why the MINI LIVING concept fits the marque so well.

MINI knows how to handle limited space in a creative way: The one-room apartment with only 30 square meters is surrounded by share communal zones. Photo © MINI

Vibrant neighborhoods

In the industrial building in Milan the apartment stands on a large bright podium, a closed, completely outfitted box. On the free space of the podium the various communal zones are grouped around the compact residential unit. The apartment’s walls, with a wooden look, in part include niches and modular shelves that can be opened from the outside. The wall niches, which usually get left unused, provide the space for a desk, a TV, a washing machine etc. The modular shelves are especially deep and are home to domestic infrastructure, such as the kitchenette or the clothes cupboard. Moreover, they also form the interface between inside and outside as they can be opened like so many windows or doors – onto the shared spaces outside.

In this way, not only is a higher density of living space achieved, but, if required, the private kitchenette can swiftly morph into an open living room-cum-kitchen and the home workstation becomes a co-working space. In this way, the urban base station, which concentrates on the essentials, gives rise to a living neighborhood, a social space that connects people.

Pleasant haven

The two spheres of the private and the shared are clearly demarcated in visual terms: The outside space is bright and light, and the box’s façade is made of untreated wood. On the inside of the Box, the ambience is by contrast muted: The wooden paneling is darker and the fittings pleasantly comfortable. “We wanted to formulate a contrast between inside and outside,” comments Hauser. If you need privacy, you simply close all the flaps and withdraw from the world. Although the apartment has been furnished with much love for detail and very much looks like you could move in tomorrow, MINI LIVING is meant to be a specimen model: “MINI LIVING is a conceptual contribution to the international debate on architecture and design,” Oke Hauser explains.

At home in the city

The Salone del Mobile is the ideal venue for MINI to present new ideas on urban living and present a model of the future in the form of an installation: “This is one of the most important trade fairs for design, and design is one of our core competences, our core standards. We are a very design-focused brand,” Hauser continues. At the same time, the carmaker sees itself as an urban brand: “Our home is the city. To offer people relevant products we need to focus on the city as a whole and think about the solutions needed.”

MINI kicked the project off in Milan and intends to advance the concept ready for the London Design Festival this coming September. We can certainly look forward to what MINI comes up with.

Bright and communicative on the outside, mute and comfortable on the inside: The wall niches provide the space for a TV and a washing machine, while modular shelves that can be opened from the outside are home to domestic infrastructure, such as the kitchenette. Photo © MINI
Modular shelves form the interface between inside and outside as they can be opened like so many windows or doors – onto the shared spaces outside. Photo © MINI
An open social space that connects people: various communal zones are grouped around the compact residential unit. Photo © MINI