Tiny House Expo (Almere near Amsterdam)
June 22, 2019
We were so excited to tour a community of 11 tiny homes that were part of an international completion held in 2016 called the BouwExpo Tiny Housing, with the aim to develop more innovative and affordable housing options for single individuals and small families. 245 individuals, professionals, and architects from all over the world submitted their designs, and 25 winners had the opportunity to build their design in Almere. The result was a community of 13 unique homes all under 50 square meters (about 538 square feet). Winners received funds to help to build the homes, and they are either owned or rented, and all but 2 can still be seen today.
One of our favorite homes was the Wrap House, made out of light and portable corrugated cardboard. There was also a gorgeous solar powered A-Frame and a Slim Fit house with only a 176 SF footprint but 528 SF of living space in its 3-stories (https://bouwexpo-tinyhousing.almere.nl/bouwexpo/dertien-deelnemers/slim-fit/). The Tiny Tower is a triplex, each home being just over 500 SF, with the base footprint being the same. The Snap is unique in that it has 2 fronts so orientation to maximize sun exposure and interaction with neighbors. Learn more about all of the homes on the BouwExpo website.
Location: Almere is an interesting suburb of Amsterdam, referred to locally as a “satellite city of Amsterdam” about a 30 min train ride away. It a town built on reclaimed land in the 1980s, that used to be ocean like much of the Netherlands (similar to Amsterdam and other surrounding lowland cities). The NL is a small country, approximately 30% of which is below sea level, hence the unique canal and dike construction that allows for development. (Read more about this process in our upcoming blog on Windmills!)
Recommendations/ Criticisms: One thing we found disappointing was the design of the actual neighborhood. While the homes were each amazing and unique, the community itself lacked some of the components of a Pocket Neighborhood recommended by Ross Chapin that we believe would have made it more cohesive and foster community interaction. Just a few recommendations we would urge the community to consider for future.
1) Clustering and front facing porches around a common area could have improved the community feel and neighbor interaction. In the center of the homes there was a circle of wood chips that seemed inhospitable and unused.
2) Adding a common area in this space for eating or entertaining like picnic tables or a fire pit would have gone a long way to make the development feel like a community and not just an outdoor exhibition. Rearranging the homes on the periphery and creating more common spaces in another cluster could have improved the layout.
3) Add some layers of separation including walking paths and landscaping. Ross recommends 7, but even just two more layers, could have really added a sense of privacy despite the homes were nestled very close to one another.
4) Community bike parking: while many in the NL do not own a car, practically everyone owns a bike, yet there was no common bike rack where owners could park their bikes and be encouraged to interact with neighbors while coming and going (which the common parking lot for cars tend to accomplish).
5) Since most of the homes are privately owned and lived in, these components would really help to improve the overall aesthetic and living environment for residents and so sad that they were not implemented. Additionally, maintenance of the landscaping (and weeds) seemed to be an issue, so perhaps homeowners covenants to ensure the longevity of the original feel could help the community going forward.
Takeaway: The innovation of so many different tiny structures was inspirational, but also a reminder that good design goes beyond the walls of the home and into the surrounding community, whether for a single family home, a multi family complex, or a pocket neighborhood.