These New Jenga Houses Cost Less Than Your Car

By a lot, depending on what kind of car you drive

By Diane Rommel

 
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11 October 2016

It wasn't that long ago that the hot trend in real estate was bigger, better, glitzier, more.

If you've seen the documentary, you'll no doubt remember the star of The Queen of Versailles (spoiler: not Marie Antoinette, but someone equally ridiculous and just as prone to a "let them eat cake" moment):

Now, as if (rightfully) disgusted by its own excesses, the real estate world has swung that pendulum back as far as it can go: to the micro-house: cheaper, smaller, tidier, less. Though we've seen an endless string of iterations of this core idea, a new student project called the Kokoon (now on view at the Aalto University School of Arts Design and Architecture in Helsinki, Finland) is emblematic of the trend: it's vertically stackable, horizontally modular, tiny (377 square feet) and cheap — crazy cheap, in fact, at $15,000 per module. Applications range from emergency housing for refugees or the homeless to budget accommodations for singles or couples in super-competitive housing markets. 

Is this indeed the future of housing? That depends on nothing more complicated than how we define the well-lived life in 2016. If we have truly become, as polls suggest, a culture that values experience over possessions, perhaps it is — a house is the costliest possession most people will ever own, and a tiny house like the Kokoon allows buyers the privileges of ownership without the tremendous financial outlay — in other words, shelter, without the frills. 

Life inside the Kokoon, though, would be cramped and unlovely: This is a well-made shack with a skylight. The question then becomes: What do we want from our possessions? Do they reflect us — our tastes and aesthetics? Or are they simply where we keep our things between more meaningful experiences? 

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