A round-up of the facts:
- My job involves reading a lot of articles about housing.
- I am almost obsessively interested in efficient use of space and small-area housing solutions/short-term accommodation like pod hotels. (I thought I’d made a blog post about this, which I was going to link to as an illustration of my point, but I have gone through my entire archive and it’s not there, so clearly I imagined it).
- Gadgets delight me providing they are actively useful and address a need (as opposed to a lot of the stuff on websites like ThinkGeek.com which are “stuff that already exists, but made to look like something from a TV show/film that I don’t watch or care about”, or “no one needs or wants this”).
- I like inventing things at an ideas level but do not have the skills or resources to actually bring them into being, or the necessary contacts, so when people say “you could make a fortune” the correct response is “no, someone else could make a fortune, I am not ever going to even see this thing constructed and it pisses me off“.
How we got to this point:
- At work, read an article about how Helsinki airport are planning on installing GoSleep pods.
- Intrigued by this notion, Google the aforementioned product, and find that – like pod hotels – this is a disappointing end point in which people have decided that “enclosed, lockable space” is unnecessary when sleeping around hundreds of strangers.
As someone who went to boarding school before staying in a few hostels both in the UK and the Netherlands, allow me to correct the assumption of anyone who thinks that just putting people in beds in a room together when they are total strangers is a good, safe, practical idea: it’s not. It’s a recipe for theft and accusations of sexual assault (and probably actual sexual assault, given that false accusation rates are fairly low). Give people a space they can close off from other people and you’re onto a winner.
- Searching about for people who understood the importance of privacy and security with sleep pods, I found these people.
- Now this is a lot more appealing, and combined with the features of embedded extras in some other pods – power points, TV screens, a little shelf, etc – plus the ability of the podtime pods to stack – set me thinking.
Alas, I am not blessed with much in the way of architectural drawing skills, to put it mildly, but you have the starting point of the podtime sleep pods above: try to imagine that the blue and green oblongs (probably slightly out of proportion here) are two tiers of those. One is for sleep, the other possibly for a second person or for storage of belongs/luggage/a folding bike. As with the podtime pods, these would feature power sockets, a small shelf, and a TV screen. I suspect they could extend further to the right than they do in the diagram.
For the “shower” module, image something like this, but fully tubular:
And with doors that slide all the way back out of the grey area to the interior wall, allowing access to the cookpod or toilet as well as the communal area at will. The doors should also be opaque, of course, although the outer rim that protrudes past the outer wall and through the insulation/plant* layer should have a window in it at around head height because a) natural light is important and b) who doesn’t want to look out over the landscape when they’re scrubbing their crevices?
The toilet (jokingly referred to in my internal planning session as a “peepod” [peapod. Get it?] because I’m a deeply undervalued human being) is fairly self-explanatory. A tube, with one door that slides back either way to the edge of the grey area, a small hand basin, a mirror, and a toilet. Presumably also a head-height window, for similar reasons of daylight, ventilation, and hey, maybe you would like to grow a small houseplant in your smallest room? I know I would.
This leaves only the Cook/Utilipod, or “kitchen” if you want to be optimistic.
Think of an almost entirely-round fitted kitchen with enough space to rotate on the spot in the middle. Mini fridge, freezer, microwave oven, a micro washer/dryer, cupboards, all ranged vertically and set into the sides. A small inset alcove with a mini sink, a kettle/power points, and one induction hot plate. Above the sink, a dish draining closet saves on space, and expect the ceiling and every edge to have LED lighting areas.
To those used to spacious kitchens full of appliances and equipment I’m sure this sounds like hell on earth, but as I live in a flat with a kitchen that’s not perceivably much bigger than that and a lot more poorly-designed, I think this is actually workable and reasonable. The idea is to get the comprise between extreme space efficiency and still having everything that is necessary to prepare most basic dishes and keep clothing clean.
(Feeling generous, maybe there could be a grilling section – I don’t want people to have to do without toast!
Unlike the sliding doors of the shower, toilet, sleep, and sleep/storage pods, the kitchen needs to maximise usable wall space, and so the door should be a roll-up shutter, like the kind that protect shop fronts. For a swankier version, this can be app-controllable (as indeed, can many automated functions within the tiny apartment: water temperature, toilet flushing, sound – speakers embedded everywhere, anyone? – and any of the kitchen appliances. In fact, it could in theory be possible to get your kettle boiling while still in the elevator). Really, it would be a great test bed for the tinier aspects of a Kitchen of the Future.
Aircon/heating throughout, sound systems, and ubiquitous wi-fi should be a piece of cake. An app-controlled lock on the main door, or indeed the individual pod doors (for allowing a cleaner access to one pod but not another) is remarkably easy to imagine.
Access to the podpartment is through a tubular elevator, or in case of a fire, through a window/ladder arrangement on the side of the building, as shown in the diagram.
Like any good modular system, this should be expandable. With daylight-range LED panels replacing windows in the bathroom pods, it’s easily possible to place two end-to-end, or at the opposite end and with roll-up doors on the elevator, if you’ll excuse the hasty diagram:
In fact, by doubling up again, leaving a couple of gaps for stair access, you get more space in each podpartment:
The brown areas here, of course, are staircases, and the somewhat larger central elevator shaft has four potential exits, along with enough space to pop a full-sized bike down the side of the storage/sleep pods. The communal areas backing together instead of the beds also minimises the chance of sleep being distrupted by other people’s TV viewing or sex lives, and means you can keep your windows all around the apartment, although in this design a unit must be sacrificed on the ground level to allow people to get in and out, that can easily be a post room or a lobby.
Being highly compact, I envision that PodLife would slot well into small spaces in urban environments, including between existing blocks and in commercial areas. Self-service hotels for people on city breaks who are short on cash and likely to be out a lot; temporary accommodation for individuals in need of re-homing including unaccompanied asylum-seekers**; a safe place for refugees from domestic violence; week-time accommodation for long-distance workers; corporate crash pads; base-line student accommodation which doesn’t result in cold, unwashed students; or just apartments for the financially-embarrassed, possession-light, and terminally busy. Not great for people who want to be at home a lot, but great for the kind of people who mostly live and work out of coffee shops and keep their lives on tablets and phones. With space for a bike, and even the tiny windowsills for a little horticulture, a compact starter home for single people is not out of the question.
* If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, “plant” is basically the stuff that makes a building run – plumbing, electricity supply, phone cables, gas pipes, aircon stuff, etc.
** If you want my commercial/capitalist ideas, you have to occasionally sit through my socialist/liberal ideologies.