tiny-house-10There’s been a bit of commotion lately.

Dublin City Council has decided they’re reducing the standard size of apartments and our citizens just aren’t having it. We’d be mad to take a step backwards and make our apartments worse, this is just more money into the hands of those greedy good-for-nothing developers. First they have their way with our economy and now they want to give us lower quality apartments.

It would seem however that we’re suffering something of a collective misconception here. We’re making an immediate assumption; bigger is better, and more is good.

Bigger does not mean better.

There’s an obsession on this island with owning land and the bigger the piece of pie one can get, the more he shall satisfy his hunger. This addiction is very unique to Ireland with the exception, perhaps, of our neighbours in Britain. We really, really like the idea of having that spare bedroom for when the guests stay over, or that nice little back garden we don’t use. It may have something to do with our consumerism culture or it may be a relic of Irish history.

Maybe it’s a hangover from the former slums of Dublin City, cleared throughout the twentieth century and replaced with that green and healthy suburban dream. These clearances were a good thing; the standard of living in the north inner city was appalling before this. A problem was solved but not in the most effective way. Anyone alive in the 80s would remember the state of the inner city then. It was empty, and neglected, it’s no wonder everyone left. The problem now is that mentality remains. The city is bad, the suburbs are good. It’s ok to live somewhere small for a little bit but eventually I want four beds in the suburbs.

This isn’t a feasible option. Dublin in 2016 is the epitome of urban sprawl. The population of the Greater Dublin Area stands at around 1.8 million and some of us still commute for over an hour. That’s nuts. The reason smaller apartments are good is because we can fit more people into Dublin City, which, by the way, ends at the canals. It would be much better for our society if we lived in a smaller area, we could have more services provided, less commute times, a higher tax income for the city, and therefore better services for everyone inside of it.

We should be celebrating this rare act of positive planning in our city. This is the reversing of a terrible trend that has led our city’s population, between the canals, lower than that before 1916.

So what are these new regulations all about then?

A one bedroom apartment used be a minimum of 55 square metres and now will be 45, two beds were 90, and now 73, three beds have also been reduced to 90 from 100.

Spread your arms out and spin in a circle. If you’re quite tall, let’s say six foot, then you take up about 3.2 square metres. You and your partner will have plenty of space in a 45sqm unit. The Japanese have been nailing this for a while. Look up ‘House in Nada’ by Fujiwaramuro Architects to see how it’s done.

Small houses are great for street life too. Anyone who’s been to Phnom Penh or Hanoi will tell you these cities are alive. There’s an incredible energy because people spend their time outside. I’m not saying we need to cram ten of us into an apartment but smaller units will mean we spend our time in the city and with each other.

Doing so will make the city will become a much more interesting place.

  • Louis Walsh, Architecture Writer