The house that breaks up when you do

Story highlights

  • A Korean architect designs small living units that can be combined and separated
  • They conform to a growing architectural trend called "micro-housing"

(CNN)As the old song has it, breaking up is hard to do.

Not only is there the emotional angst, but in many cases one partner has to pack up and move out.
    How much easier would it be if you could just break up your home into two separate units, and move them away from each other?
    This is just one of the possibilities offered by "micro housing," an architectural concept that is gaining momentum around the world.
    "Urban density and housing cost are both rising rapidly," says Jinhee Park, principal architect at the Single Speed Design (SsD) design firm.
    "The idea is to take a small area and make it into a comfortable living environment that can be adapted according to changing needs."

    A home that changes with you

    Park has recently put this into practice in Seoul, Korea, where a complex of 14 units can be combined and rearranged to match changes in lifestyle.
    Residents can either claim a single space or recombine the blocks for larger configurations to suit couples, families or groups of friends.
    Jinhee Park, architect
    "It means that people will live there for longer, and in a more environmentally-friendly way," says Park, "since they aren't forced to move out when their circumstances change."
    At the heart of the concept is the notion that you don't need as much personal space as you think.
    The private units are small, but they are complemented by various shared living areas, semi-public balconies, an exhibition space and a café.
    All of this releases the pressure on the private units, making for a surprising degree of comfort in a confined space.

    Space does not mean spaciousness

    "I believe that you don't need lots of space to create spaciousness," says Park. "We designed the units to feel big even though they are small.
    "The windows match up so that you always have a view of the outside world, and deep skylights allow lots of natural light whatever level you live on.
    "The thickness of the housing shell is reduced as much as possible, maximizing the available space."
    But it is the notion of expanding and adapting your living space that is the real key to success.

    Breaking up is easier to do

    "The idea is that people don't identify their living boundaries with the walls of their personal units," she says.
    "They can go outside and extend their boundaries by using the intersection between public and private, as well as interior and exterior spaces."
    The complex was built last Fall, and the reaction has been positive. But, Park acknowledges, none of the residents have yet altered the configuration of the units.
    "I don't know if any of them have broken up yet," she says.
    "Hopefully they haven't. But when that time comes, it will be very interesting to see what happens."