Q&A: Torsten Ottesjö

A miniature house was made for a couple in Sweden.

If you’re familiar with the project we recently published on a house for hens, then you’ll recognize the work of Scandinavian architect Torsten Ottesjö – rarely do you see such thought-provoking designs on such a small scale.

A stream of petite structures have hit the map recently, but these are mainly temporary and in the form of pavilions (check out our best of). Another typology that fits this ‘size’ well is Japanese housing – continually exemplifying compact living (Mark #40 looks at the Japanese housing typology in detail).

But when we move away from these particular examples, we seem to revert back to ‘bigger is better’. Ottesjö’s work is a great example of how scale, shown through his henhouse and Hus-1, can be downsized, whilst maintaining an interesting and functional way of living – essentially upsizing the housing typology as a whole. Evermore crucial today, given the economic need for cheaper modular dwellings, we asked Ottesjö some questions on living, variations in scale and the price tag (literally and conceptually) this has on the housing bazaar.

What inspired you to look at small-scale housing?
Torsten Ottesjö: Small scale housing was something that is interesting because we feel that as humans we really don't need that much space to live, if that space is designed with a sense of care. With this I mean that if all the aspects of the house are built with human use in mind, we can place the same level of functionality into a smaller space - a couch can be replaced by a curve of the walls, high ceilings are referenced as the highest point of the building, a curved structure often feels larger than a non-curved one because of an illusion of perspective. Small spaces can also feel more embracing, more personal, and in that way also more representative of one's identity.

What would you like to see that isn’t already out there?
What isn't out there is considerate cost-efficient building. Building is very standardised, furniture can often be mass-produced, things need to fit with each other. The environments in the majority of apartments are very homogenous.

Is it economically viable to make, let’s say, 200 Hus1’s? Do you think the price tag matches the scale or can it? I mean people aren’t really willing to pay extra for smaller – and if we go into bespoke living then it seems to be limited to the rich.
Yes, it is. Even now, the cost for this house is competitive for other houses on the market. Then there's also the factor that if we're building spaces more efficiently, actually the cost for a comparable structure build with traditional designs might be more expensive. Design-build is also cheaper since the design and conceptualisation is done to a large part on site, and based on the environment and surroundings. A structure should work with its surroundings and according to the needs of a client. If we can build this directly and from local materials, the costs are actually quite efficient.

´The square block-shaped architecture that surrounds us encourages a simplistic logic. It is not a suitable environment for humans.’ What is a suitable environment for humans?
People are not cubic, so it's strange in a way that their homes should be cubes. There is a ton of wasted space. Many apartments are designed efficiently to be storage spaces. How we move away from that with interior design is something else. Build an efficient structure and the psychology that structure elicits with its environment will also change.

What can we expect next? You’ve tackled a henhouse and another compact house, do you have any other miniature treats in store for us?
There are a couple projects in the works. Another house, as well as a landscape we've designed over the last two years where we're currently conceptualising a space for people to meet. I can't say too much now, but we hope to show you soon.

Photos courtesy of David Relan

ottesjo.se

Liked this article?
We've got more for you

Sign up to our newsletter for weekly updates. Or view the archive.