Noa, Jaanus Orgusaar, Estonia (or anywhere), 2011. Photo: Jaanus Orgusaar, Terje Ugandi
Noa, Jaanus Orgusaar, Estonia (or anywhere), 2011. Photo: Jaanus Orgusaar, Terje Ugandi

8 Tiny Dwellings That Make Downsizing Look Awesome

Noa, Jaanus Orgusaar, Estonia (or anywhere), 2011. Photo: Jaanus Orgusaar, Terje Ugandi
Noa, Jaanus Orgusaar, Estonia (or anywhere), 2011. Photo: Jaanus Orgusaar, Terje Ugandi

While American homes tend to operate on the “bigger is better” principle, there are advantages to going in the opposite direction. Tiny houses are more energy efficient, and often relatively easy to move.

Nanotecture: Tiny Built Things, a new book filled with pint-sized architectural projects, shows just how much you can do with a tiny footprint.

Architects love tiny houses because they create a challenge, and the result is odd, cool buildings. “Tiny built things frequently convey a sense of freedom to experiment without the weighty responsibly of a large budget or complex functional requirements,” author Rebecca Roke writes in the book’s introduction. Here are eight adorable tiny shelters that will make you consider throwing away everything you own.

1. NOA

The wee house pictured in the top image is made of identically-shaped rhombus components: the walls and roof pieces are the exact same. The zig-zag walls create three “feet” that the house rests on instead of a foundation, and because all the pieces are identical, it can be easily extended into a larger space. 


Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter, Northern Zealand, Denmark, 2008. Image Credit: Torben Eskerod

A simple vacation cabin in New Zealand spans just 32 square feet and features only the necessities: a bed, a desk, one wall of shelving, and one window. It's the perfect retreat. 


Free Spirit Spheres, Vancouver Island, Canada, 1998. Image Credit: Tom Chudleigh

The Sphere Houses are part of a hotel on Vancouver Island, and feature a bed, a small kitchen, and seating. They’re just 10.5 feet wide and designed to sway a little in the wind—so you’ll never forget that you’re in a tree. 

4. BLOB vB3

dmvA, Flanders, Belgium (or elsewhere), 2009. Image Credit: Frederik Vercruysse

The 66-square-foot Blob was originally created as an office extension for a Belgian design firm. It’s a mobile, energy-efficient space that can be transported on the back of a truck. This one has a bed, a kitchen, and a bathroom, with niches built into the walls that function as shelves. 


Allergutendinge, Germany (or elsewhere), 2010. Image Credit:Courtesy Allergutendinge

Designed by a pair of university students in Germany, the Spirit Shelter is a meditation space that you can easily disassemble and move. Meant to be a study space, many of its components serve multiple purposes: The front wall can fold down into a deck, the roof can open into a skylight, and the walls have fold-out furniture like a table and a ladder. 


Santambrogiomilano, Milan, Italy, 2012. Image Credit: Torben Eskerod

A completely transparent house in Milan is made to feel like you’re living directly in the forest. Hopefully there aren’t too many neighbors. 


Shelter No. 2, Broisson Architects, Naucalpan, Mexico (or elsewhere), 2008. Image Credit: Alejandro Rocha

This three-story, prefabricated house has a lozenge-shaped facade fashioned from recycled material. Built for a family of three, it fits a kitchen, bathroom, study, living area, and bedrooms situated around a central staircase. 


Terunobu Fujimori, Nagano Prefecture, Japan, 2004. Image Credit: MASUDA, Akihisa

This tea house in Japan, designed for the architect’s personal use, is less than 10 square feet inside. There’s just enough room to make tea while overlooking the nearby town of Chino. 

Nanotecture: Tiny Built Things ($25 from Phaidon) comes out March 21. 

All images courtesy Phaidon

19 Must-Visit Stops on Mexico City's Metro

About 5 million people ride the Mexico City subway every day—but most commuters don’t realize how much there is to do and see without ever having to go above ground. From piano stairs to a space tunnel, exploring the attractions hidden within the metro just might be the most fun you can have for 5 pesos (about $0.25 USD). These Mexico City metro stations settle the old question once and for all; it’s both the journey and the destination.


Talisman station (line 4) has a mammoth logo for a reason: Mammoth fossils were unearthed during construction of the metro, and you can see the bones—which date back to the Pleistocene—on display there.


space tunnel at La Raza station
Sharon Hahn Darlin, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

How do you make a long transfer fly by? Transform it into a walk-through space tunnel illuminated by a glow-in-the-dark night sky, the highlight of the science museum located within La Raza station (lines 3 and 5).


Viveros (line 3), a station named for the nearby nursery, is in full flower: It was recently given a jungle makeover complete with imitation palms, jaguars, and snakes to raise awareness for the preservation of southern Mexico’s Lacandon Rainforest.


Complement your day trip to the pyramids at Teotihuacan with a stop at the Pino Suarez station (lines 1 and 2), where you can see a 650-year-old pyramid dedicated to Ehecatl, the Aztec god of wind. Tens of thousands of users go through the station daily, making the pyramid one of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico. (Though it's referred to as Mexico’s smallest archaeological zone, the National Institute of Anthropology and History doesn't consider it a "proper" archaeological zone "due to its size and the fact of being located in a Metro Transport System facility.")


Hidalgo (lines 2 and 3) may be the most miraculous of all of Mexico City’s metro stations: In 1997, someone (possibly a street vendor) discovered a water stain in the shape of the Virgin of Guadalupe in one of its floor tiles. The apparition attracted so many pilgrims that metro authorities eventually had to remove the tile, which is now enshrined just outside one of the exits (follow the signs for Iglesia), near the intersection of Paseo de la Reforma and Zarco. And if you happen to visit this station on the morning of the 28th of any month, you’ll be swarmed with pious commuters carrying figurines of Saint Judas Thaddeus—patron saint of delinquents and lost causes—who is venerated at the nearby San Hipolito Church.


No time to visit the vast National Museum of Anthropology? You can still catch reproductions of Mesoamerican statues at the Bellas Artes (lines 2 and 8) and Tezozomoc (line 6) stops.


miniatures on the Mexico city subway
Randal Sheppard, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Miniature maniacs shouldn’t miss the scale models of Mexico City’s main plaza at the Zocalo stop (line 2). They depict, in tiny form, the metamorphosis of the capital from the Aztec Templo Mayor to the present-day Metropolitan Cathedral. (And bonus points to anyone who can spot the cat who lives in this station.)


The music-themed Division del Norte station’s (line 3) free karaoke corner draws a crowd gathered to watch fellow riders belt out boleros and ballads on their way to work. The unassuming abuelitas laden with bags from the market always have the most impressive pipes.


piano stairs at Polanco station
Victor.Aguirre-Lopez, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Don’t take the escalators at Polanco station (line 7), because the stairs are a giant musical piano keyboard. Finally, here’s your chance to live out Tom Hanks’s piano dance scene from the movie Big.


The Guerrero stop (lines B and 3) is a tribute to the legends of lucha libre, with costume displays and murals dedicated to 45 of Mexico’s finest masked fighters.


The largest bookshop in Latin America can be found in the long passage between the Zocalo and Pino Suarez stations. The underground emporium known as Un Paseo Por Los Libros sells titles from textbooks to manga and also hosts free workshops, lectures, and movie screenings.


murals in the Mexico City subway
Thelmadatter, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Any visitor to Mexico City should check out Diego Rivera’s murals—but on your way, don’t forget to look up at the murals that decorate many metro stations. Particularly impressive are Guillermo Ceniceros’s ambitious chronicles of art through the history of time on the walls at the Copilco (line 3) and Tacubaya stations (lines 1, 7, and 9). On the kitschier side, see how many famous faces you can pick out in Jorge Flores Manjarrez’s I Spy-style mural of pop stars at the Auditorio stop (line 7).


A museum of caricatures located inside the Zapata stop (line 12) is an homage to Mexican cartooning, including plenty of satirical interpretations of the mustachioed revolutionary who gives the station its name.


If Chabacano station (lines 2, 8, and 9) feels unsettlingly familiar, it might be because it was used as a shooting location for the subway chase scene in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall. Legend has it you can still spot splashes of fake blood on the ceiling.


Museo del Metro de la Ciudad de México
ProtoplasmaKid, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Has this metro adventure turned you into a super fan? Do a deep dive at Mixcoac station’s (line 12) sleek Metro Museum, where you can learn even more fun facts about the subway’s 50 years of history while you wait out rush hour.

Pop Chart Lab
150 Northeast Lighthouses in One Illustrated Poster
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

Some of the world's most beautiful and historic lighthouses can be found in the American Northeast. Now, Pop Chart Lab is releasing an illustrated poster highlighting 150 of the historic beacons dotting the region's coastline.

The 24-inch-by-36-inch print, titled "Lighthouses of the Northeast," covers U.S. lighthouses from the northern tip of Maine to the Delaware Bay. Categorized by state, the chart features a diverse array of lighthouse designs, like the dual towers at Navesink Twin Lights in New Jersey and the distinctive red-and-white stripes of the West Quoddy Head Light in Maine.

Framed poster of lighthouses.
Pop Chart Lab

Each illustration includes the lighthouse name and the year it was first lit, with the oldest lighthouses dating back to the 1700s. There's also a map in the upper-left corner showing the location of each landmark on the northeast coast.

Chart of lighthouses.
Pop Chart Lab

The poster is now available to preorder for $37, with shipping set to start March 21. After memorizing every site on the chart, you can get to work exploring many of the other unique lighthouses the rest of the world has to offer.


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