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More than meets the eye
January 15, 2009 10:59 AM   Subscribe

The Domestic Transformer: sliding walls and yellow light, a local architect's solution to the problem of scant living-space in Hong Kong.

There's a book out documenting Chang's work on his small home, but I can't find it online. Here's another book documenting his ideas.
posted by grobstein (31 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cool! But...

The walls in the apartment's main room, awash in yellow because of tinted windows, are pushed against the wall to the left to create an open space, with CDs to the left and the desk to the right.

A hard-drive the size of a hardcover book could open up that entire for some other use.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:13 AM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


bugmenot appears to be down for nytimes. Anyone?
posted by leotrotsky at 11:13 AM on January 15, 2009


Brilliant. I'm all in favor of doing more with less, and making small places feel big, and this seems to take those principles to the extreme. It's what Corbu called a "machine for living" in a literal way.

Modern building methods don't really make this kind of thing readily accessible, though, because there's clearly a lot of custom fabrication, and not of any type that building contractors are familiar with. If it were applied to prefab buildings or every unit in large apartment blocks, economies of scale might make it accessible.
posted by adamrice at 11:15 AM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


A hard-drive the size of a hardcover book could open up that entire for some other use.

Yeah, it's weird; dude has a sentimental attachment to CDs. NYT:
(Mr. Chang, a technophile who checks on his apartment with a Web cam while traveling, refuses to switch to MP3 files because he loves CD cases and liners.)
posted by grobstein at 11:15 AM on January 15, 2009


motherfucker stole my idea.
posted by troy at 11:25 AM on January 15, 2009


It's a fantastic idea for people who live alone. Once you have more than one resident, though, moving from the kitchen to the office requires consensus of everybody in the room. I don't think it would alleviate stress much.
posted by ardgedee at 11:26 AM on January 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


A hard-drive the size of a hardcover book could open up that entire for some other use.

Believe me, I've tried convincing my wife of this thinking, and also reminded her that we could save ourselves stacks of paper mess by just reading the paper online. It does no good.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:31 AM on January 15, 2009


The other thing of course is that a wall of CDs probably works pretty well as decor. In my apartment (which is bigger than this?!) the corner with the bookshelf is the nicest part of the place.
posted by grobstein at 11:49 AM on January 15, 2009


Densely packed bookshelves are terrific for sound and heat insulation.
posted by ardgedee at 11:52 AM on January 15, 2009


Densely packed bookshelves are terrific for sound and heat insulation.

Do plastic CD cases and CDs work as well for that as paper, cardboard, and fabric books? I would think the wall of plastic CD cases would create some pretty harsh sonic reflections.

I understand the attachment to actual CDs with cases and liner notes, but if the goal is to simplify, it seems like a strange material possession to hold on to as the last monumental occupier of space. Surely there is some other material possession that he is more attached to, but that doesn't look as pretty as a wall of CDs.
posted by The World Famous at 12:07 PM on January 15, 2009


Do plastic CD cases and CDs work as well for that as paper, cardboard, and fabric books?

CD cases do have a lot of air in them.
posted by grobstein at 12:12 PM on January 15, 2009


A hard-drive the size of a hardcover book could open up that entire for some other use.

Yeah, it's weird; dude has a sentimental attachment to CDs. NYT:


(Mr. Chang, a technophile who checks on his apartment with a Web cam while traveling, refuses to switch to MP3 files because he loves CD cases and liners.)


It bugs me that this is shocking to people. This is still the norm in my book.
posted by anazgnos at 12:13 PM on January 15, 2009


Hawt. I'm a total slut for minimalist décor as it is, and when it's combined with geeky "ooh look! this thing turns into this other thing!", I just can't help myself. Want want want (unless you can score me a 3-bedroom apartment instead; in that case, bring in the Napoleon III armoire).
posted by LMGM at 12:15 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Plastic CD cases are going to work as myriad small pockets of air, so they'd help with thermal insulation. Sound insulation? A sheet of plastic CD case spines probably reflect interior noises more, but I would bet that they dampen exterior noise at least little.
posted by ardgedee at 12:15 PM on January 15, 2009


Yeah, heat insulation and sound insulation work similarly I think. Of course, in the sound case you also care about what happens to sound whose escape is foiled.
posted by grobstein at 12:18 PM on January 15, 2009


Not to continue the CD derail, but I love me my CDs and their cases and liners (and my DVDs, and my books) and am in agreement with anazgnos. Say what you will about wasted space or sentimentality, the material artifact is important to me and has something that a small, white electronic device with a pair of earbuds never can have.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:42 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actually really like the aesthetics of mass storage. A shelf of servers that substituted for videos, games, CDs, books would be very tempting as decor as well as labor-saving device.
posted by grobstein at 12:52 PM on January 15, 2009


Not to continue the CD derail, but I love me my CDs and their cases and liners (and my DVDs, and my books) and am in agreement with anazgnos. Say what you will about wasted space or sentimentality, the material artifact is important to me and has something that a small, white electronic device with a pair of earbuds never can have.

This is true. But if one's raison d'etre is saving space, it's surprising that that particular goal would not win out over the CDs, particularly where it is clear that other material things have been sacrificed for space.
posted by The World Famous at 1:12 PM on January 15, 2009


AUTOWASH!
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:30 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


this is a super sexy bachelor pad even if it does look like a yuppie cube but it's not going to solve any population issues. it's bad enough trying to switch channels on the tele when you're watching it with someone else, now imagine having to share between four who each want to flip between three different things at once. my guess is all these walls slide smoothly apart on some classy motion dampeners to stop them damaging themselves, anything nearby or anything on the selves, this relies on the gentle coercion of a man of leisure, they'd be wrecked after a month of family living, in fact it'd probably make me kill more people. it'd be good to see if developers actually took anything away to make a residential project aimed at families.
posted by doobiedoo at 2:21 PM on January 15, 2009


Everybody who's seen Gene Kelly's apartment in American in Paris and lives in a small apartment wants a place like this, but kudos to him for the clean aesthetic. A little stark at first glance, but if that is a fold down vanity counter over the tub, clever man.

I kept my CD liners and CDs in a zippered binder, and threw out 300+ jewel cases. Although I have to admit, the uniformity of CD jewel cases makes for a modular aesthetic that is easier to manipulate for a desired effect.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:26 PM on January 15, 2009


It's frametastic, but the book does have a web page with the all the info you need to find a copy.
posted by Harkins_ at 2:36 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sweet! Copy ordered. T.Y.
posted by grobstein at 2:43 PM on January 15, 2009


BrotherCaine, that fold-out above the tub is the guest bed, according to the story: One can imagine three, possibly four people living here, using Mr. Chang’s double bed and the guest bed that hovers over the bathtub .

What happens when one person living there gets sick and wants to stay in bed all day? No one else can cook food or bathe, I guess.
posted by holyrood at 3:41 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's really cool, but I'm having a hard time visualizing how all the partitions slide around. Any video of this?
posted by zardoz at 3:42 PM on January 15, 2009


it'd be good to see if developers actually took anything away to make a residential project aimed at families.

Yes, please! Figure out smart stow away storage for kids that doesn't work as a potential deathtrap as well, cheersverymuch.

And was I the only one who thought of those moving archival bookshelves and how scary movies could do a great paranoia film with this apartment - our heroine comes home to her sleek flat but is not alone.. dum dum DUM.. and in the end she is crushed between her neatly moving walls. I'd go see that.
posted by dabitch at 5:48 PM on January 15, 2009


When the article mentioned a lack of "acoustic privacy," I immediately interpreted that as "other people's farts." This alone would keep me from making a long-term investment in such an apartment for non-solo living. A stay there looks like it would be great fun for a little while, though. In order for a tiny space to stay livable, you have to be a very neat person, and I am not that.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:13 PM on January 15, 2009


but is not alone.. dum dum DUM.. and in the end she is crushed between her neatly moving walls. I'd go see that.

SPOILER ALERT!!!
posted by The World Famous at 7:35 PM on January 15, 2009


I actually think I would prefer the many small rooms the apartment originally had.

I've lived in a 200-300 sq ft apartment, and while I would really have liked another 36sq feet or so to have a proper kitchen, in some ways it felt more roomy than my current 550sq ft apartment, because it was less open plan and didn't have any lines of sight from one room to the other (there were only two, and a bathroom between). In my current apartment, my husband and I have much less privacy from each other because it is more open.

I'm beginning to think that there is just an essential difference in the world: people for whom openness feels spacious, and people for whom multiple rooms and privacy between feels spacious, and for both the opposite feels cramped.

Unfortunately for me, it seems like the designers and architechs of the world might be the open type, and I'm not. I want a Victorian warren of rooms.
posted by jb at 8:43 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


(just found the multimedia) - yeah, looking at his stuff, I think I would just rather have a tiny tv, and a kitchen that was always there. And who needs a shower and a bath? Just have a showerhead over your bath.

Maybe there are also two ways to live small - living small with fewer and smaller things, and living small by living large in a constantly shifting way.
posted by jb at 8:47 PM on January 15, 2009


There has gots to be a "I grew up this way thus I don't mind a), b), c), things and I can't stand the d), e), f)."
posted by porpoise at 10:07 PM on January 15, 2009


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