With 57% of Londoners earning less than $34,000 a year and the average
one-bedroom apartment anywhere near the centers of work and nightlife
costing $275,000, living in London just doesn’t seem to add
up. Piercy Conner Architects have come up with what they think will
be the solution: small, prefabricated, factory-built units which
can be slotted into specially built shells on small plots of land
or occupy economical spaces above supermarkets.
“Microflats”, which at 345 square feet are one-third
smaller than the average starter apartment in London, would provide
stylish housing at less than $145,000 per unit. The Microflat dwellers
would, according to the architects, live a Microlife with those
of a similar age and status and enjoy features such as an intranet
and communal leisure facilities.
launch the Microflat, and to see how it would work for real, Piercy
Conner cooked up a scheme to build one in the window of the popular
London department store, Selfridges. They then held an open competition
for two Micronauts, one male and one female, who would live in the
flat under public scrutiny for one week each.
sight of the tiny Microflat whilst walking down bustling Oxford
Street, it looks no different from any other tightly-packed department
store window, with its sofa, television and shining kitchen equipment.
Inside the Micronauts stare out on to London’s busiest shopping
street, living mannequins for one week only.
the shop window for the second week was 24-year-old Hélène
Cacace, a marketing researcher who currently lives near Oxford with
What made you want to live your life in public for a week?
I’m really interested in the Microlife idea itself. I think
that the actual concept of it could work. I was at college in London
and I graduated this summer. I don’t live in London, but I
would like to move back to London and I know that when I do I will
have to look for somewhere and it would be great if I could buy
somewhere rather than paying out rent every month.
first evening I was on my own and cooked myself dinner. It took
a while to get used to the public outside but in the flat I felt
really relaxed, I had a glass of wine, watched TV, played on the
PlayStation. Going to bed was a bit strange and I woke up a few
times with the traffic. I have been living my life as usual though,
I’ve been washing up, ironing. I just had a massage today
and I did yoga the other day.
How would you feel about living in one for real?
I think it would be amazing if I could buy a flat like that, if
it wasn’t in a shop window that is. If it was under £100,000
(approximately $143,000) then if I was sharing the mortgage I could
afford to do it. I think it is big enough to share with somebody;
it’s not like a bedsit or studio - it has a separate bedroom
and living area so if you weren’t talking, someone could sleep
on the sofa.
What’s it like living in this neighbourhood?
It’s really great for coming home at night from places. The
Microflat team took me out on Monday night to a restaurant and tonight
I am going to the theatre. It’s a good location. It’s
good for shopping too when your back garden is Selfridges. I haven’t
really bought anything so far. I don’t think that Microflats
are ever going to be built in this area as they would be unaffordable.
But it is great being in the middle of town. You walk up the road
and there’s Soho.
What do you most like about Microflat?
I think it’s been really well designed. It is quite a small
space, but it doesn’t feel small at all. The pod area is really
well designed. It is a small space but there is room for storage
and all your utilities are there. The only thing I don’t like
is the fact that there is nowhere to put your socks, there aren’t
any drawers. But that’s why I am there - to test it out and
give advice about things.
Storefront Windows Around Oxford Street:
Marks & Spencer
Right next door to Selfridges is the store where Brits buy their
underwear. Marks & Spencer has become less stiff-upper-lip of
late so expect to see their range of Joe Corre (of Agent Provocateur)
lingerie on full show.
If you exit to the rear of Selfridges you will catch a windowful
of both Londoners and tourists slurping noodles whilst trying not
to splash the broth on their designer sweaters. Cheap, fast and
very popular, branches of this Japanese-style canteen are now sprouting
all over London.
Almost opposite Wagamama at 72 Wigmore Street is the original branch
of this wonderful Scandinavian design paradise where you can pick
up a teak monkey, a Tom Dixon rug or Arne Jacobsen cutlery.
Robin and Lucienne Day were design consultants for this department
store a few blocks east of Selfridges until 1987, and you can still
spot their influence in-store. A recent makeover means that more
fashion now fills the windows, though it is still great for fabric
and will match any price in town.