Small World

Publication in “Nevertheless Magazine for Art & Architecture – The Passion Archive” (Issue 7)

Year: 2014
Research Team: Mark Neuner
Photography: Mark Neuner and Atelier Olschinsky

Whether it is Lainzer Tiergarten, the Donauinsel, or the Prater, they are appearing in Vienna everywhere and yet are nowhere: the “Wohnwelten” (Residential Worlds), that seem to have been reduced by a factor of 0.5. Compared to Tokyo these miniature houses are still gigantic. There the so-called mini-house often has a ground plan the size of a parked car. What seems like an absurd product is at closer inspection the answer to the questions our megacities will be confronted with in 2030 at the latest. That is the expected point in time where we will have to have completely changed our consumption.

Viennese Miniature World ©Mostlikely Architecture and Atelier Olschinsky


Small by Law?

In Tokyo, the high Japanese inheritance tax often forces inhabitants to sell part of their inherited property, therefore houses become small. The result is a new form of urban architecture – an exciting miniaturisation of residential worlds as well as extremely dense constructions. In Vienna, the development of miniature residential worlds was for a different reason – but the effect is similar. Initially, small allotments were created as gardens, used for relaxation and food cultivation of city dwellers.

          Following extreme pressure from tenants who wished to live permanently in the green belt, the City of Vienna allowed all-year residence and the building of single family homes from 1992 onwards.



Aerial view of Viennese allotment society


The House as City – Urban Villages

In Japan, the so-called “urban villages” are characterized by a mixture of living, working and shopping which leads to high social interaction and a village-like communal atmosphere. The key element is the communal external space, not acting as separating element but as a connection between the separate houses and their residents. Although Viennese allotment societies also look like urban villages, they lack certain diversity and colourful goings-on in the streets.

          The limitations of use to only residential purposes leads to an absence of other infrastructure, resulting in an obliteration of a spontaneous, social space.

This is enhanced by restrictive building regulations, only allowing certain forms of allotment houses. Copying the big city villas, they try to get the comfort and same amount of rooms in a fraction of the space. The question arises whether for this size it is practical to give rooms one determined usage or to better define a new way of using small spaces.


House in Viennese allotment society ©Mostlikely Architecture and Atelier Olschinsky


Not a Castle, a Tree House as an Example

As our life-worlds have become more flexible – also through digital working methods – one should rethink the functional separation of Modernism with its many rooms only used for specific functions at specific times.

          Allotment houses would rather benefit from one open space with defined areas and niches instead of divided small rooms.


Culture of Access

According to the principle of „Using instead of Owning“, personal space in Tokyo is reduced to a minimal, but high quality single-space room. It can be temporarily extended by using a network of temporary spaces, spread all over the city. Digital networking makes limited and communal use of goods possible, allowing a more sustainable handling of resources, not based on renunciation but rather extending the spectrum of possibilities.



House in Viennese allotment society ©Mostlikely Architecture and Atelier Olschinsky


Allotment 2.0 – responsive micro structures

          Tokyo’s compact single-family home building coupled with a high living standard gains great importance now, as urban compactness and a conservationist lifestyle can achieve the necessary reduction of emission rates.

With Vienna still developing in the opposite direction, continuously cementing the suburban lifestyle and almost doubling in surface area over the last decades, new concepts are necessary to introduce a new trend. In order to enable a self-determined and sustainable lifestyle, we should acquire the potential of Tokyo’s urban villages, making them our own and instilling this attitude into the allotment societies. Dynamic structures, consisting of both small-sized houses with private space as well as a collaborative lifestyle, could become „responsive micro structures“, which are able to react flexibly to change.


House in Viennese allotment society ©Mostlikely Architecture and Atelier Olschinsky