Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Micro-Living: Learning to Live Large in Small Spaces

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posted on 2021-11-15, 07:12 authored by Richmond, Simon

High-density living has always been proclaimed as a way of the future, but the future is now here and we are plagued by inadequate, uninviting city-living environments. This design research paper aims to produce an alternate design method that can be applied to apartment living in New Zealand to produce positive, affordable apartment designs.  The late 20th and early 21st centuries has seen urban New Zealand become an increasingly popular place to live. Large numbers are drawn to the cities by the convenience of closer proximity to amenities and greater job prospects. This urbanisation overlaps with the constant growth of the country’s overall population which, combined, puts pressure on cities as land becomes an increasingly rare commodity. In response, cities often expand outward. The negative effect of this has been heavily documented.  The introduction of high density living solutions has attempted to combat the ever increasing ‘suburban sprawl.’ Many apartment complexes have risen in response to this demand, especially in the cities of Auckland and Wellington. However, this is where the problem develops. A large proportion of smaller, more affordable apartments have been identifi ed to be poorly designed, producing low quality spaces and unsatisfactory living environments. Moreover, the public perception of these ‘shoebox’ apartments is highly negative.  This research not only investigates the issues associated with the small apartments in New Zealand but seeks to improve upon them by learning from an international precedent. The Japanese architectural movement of Kyosho-Jutaku or Micro-living provides urban accommodation through space effi cient stand-alone dwellings. These dwellings were developed in response to the harsh urban and economic conditions in the early 1990s and continue to be built throughout Japan’s urban prefectures. The architects of Japanese micro-architecture approach small spaces with design strategies resulting in interiors which appear expansive beyond their physical limits and produce quality living environments. Through the analysis and diagrammatic formulation of these Japanese micro-architecture design strategies, this research aims to produce an applicable technique for ‘micro’ design in New Zealand. The contexts are removed allowing the singular strategies to be understood and manipulated, expanding the design possibilities for each technique. Ultimately, this thesis tests the applicability of planning and spatial design strategies, adapted from Japanese micro-architecture, to a New Zealand context in the development of small, high quality urban apartments.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


McDonald, Chris