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Micro: Very Small Buildings

By Ruth Slavid. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2007, 224 pages, $19.95.

Reviewed by David Sokol

Small spaces foster community, provide spiritual escape, reject materialism, and permit self-assembly. According to Slavid, who worked for The Architects’ Journal for 15 years, they may also constitute some of the most elegant expressions of architecture. “It is relatively easy to consider them as a whole, to transfer from drawing or rendering to the real thing, without any horrible surprises.” So-called “microarchitecture,” she promises, offers the possibility of perfection.

Micro: Very Small Buildings
Image courtesy Laurence King Publishing
Micro: Very Small Buildings
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Micro presents 53 attempts at design brilliance. The book is organized according to diminishing accessibility, beginning with public works and culminating in private homes and sumptuous accessory spaces, such as a stand-alone sauna and a garden pavilion. For lessons in the most responsible forms of small-scale design, then, stick to the first chapters of this book. These civic and multiple-user projects, which range from a series of bus stations to folly-like installations, are exemplars of sophistication as well as civic engagement. And though these projects are aesthetically resolved, they are anything but one-liners. As wind whips through the Tighe Architecture–designed Ocean Park Hatch Shell in Santa Monica’s Clover Park, for example, its nylon cables begin to whir and buzz like an Aeolian harp. In a sustainable turn, two bus shelters designed by Bauman Lyons Architects for the northern England city Bradford includes integrated wind turbines, which generate electricity to heat waiting passengers’ seats. Slavid handily describes these multiple features and, thanks to her trade-journal experience, she also elucidates the occasionally complex structural solutions and fabrication techniques deployed to realize seemingly simple gestures.

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