Tiny But Powerful: The Politics of the Tiny Homes Movement in Domestic Architecture, by Pam Aloisa

The Tiny Home Movement, and the popular trend towards very small homes generally, can be seen as a political dialog reflecting challenges to American capitalism and specific perceptions of poverty and homelessness, ecology and land use, changing American virtues and values, and resistance to laws governing today’s society. This presentation will discuss some of the major political issues that have inspired a trend towards innovative, nontraditional small domestic architecture. A brief timeline of small home design traditions in this country will start the discussion and then the focus will turn to modern and contemporary examples that represent several political issues of this era.


Historical examples will include the cottages of Andrew Jackson Downing and the small homes of Henry Thoreau and George Bernard Shaw. The political issues of that time were more centered on a desire for back-to-nature simple lifestyles and more affordable buildings for the middle class.


Examples of today’s modern and postmodern domestic architecture that fits in the category of small and tiny homes will include homes of the Earthship Global Biotecture company, the Los Angeles Genesis I building project, the documentation of the home built by Witold Rybczynski which he wrote a book about, the Community First “micro-homes” in Austin, Texas, and the concepts of “house pioneer” Jay Shafer among others. The political issues for this modern and post-modern era include larger populations desiring more affordable housing, options for the homeless populations, off-the-grid living, smaller ecological footprints, and resistance to expansive governmental control.


Increased small/tiny homes in U.S. neighborhoods forces local/regional/state governments and citizens to question the politics that suppress and limit the choices for these homes. In today’s political culture, building such structures faces increasing opposition and more enforcement of various laws that disapprove of such structures being legally built. The challenge is for the general population to approve designs and choices by individual homeowners and architects, supporting citizens’ desires to attain more happiness and satisfaction by living in a home that aligns with personal political viewpoints.

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