What a squeeze! World’s skinniest dwelling named as one of the planet’s most iconic houses
Widely considered to be the narrowest dwelling in the world, a Warsaw address is back in the news after being included on a list of international projects honoured by the prestigious portal Iconic Houses.
Debuting in 2012, the Keret House was designed by Jakub Szczęsny after the acclaimed architect spotted a small “void” that was splitting two buildings.
“I was on my way to a café,” Szczęsny tells TFN, “when I first noticed a gap between a pre-war Jewish tenement and a 70s co-op block. It was a fantastic representation of the Frankenstein nature of Warsaw and I felt the need to fill that space, to make those two buildings communicate and relate to each other.”
To do so, Szczęsny filled the space by creating a fully-functioning abode measuring 152 centimetres at its widest point and just 92 centimetres at its slimmest.
Built to serve as both an artistic installation and a residence for visiting artists, it was named in celebration of its first invited guest, the Israeli author Etgar Keret.
“I figured that the size of the space made it ideal for a short story writer,” says Szczęsny, “and there was, also, the Jewish aspect given the location inside the former Ghetto – Etgar Keret, therefore, seemed the perfect patron, and fortunately, he loved the idea.”
So too did the rest of the world. Over 2,000 people attended the opening ceremony, and the house found itself rapidly going viral featuring in titles as diverse as The Daily Mail, Vogue, Wallpaper* and the HuffPost.
“It changed the vector of my life,” Szczęsny tells TFN. “It opened doors to global work and has even been included in MoMA’s permanent collection – I remember studying that collection in MoMA’s old museum space, so it’s something that I could never even have dreamed of.”
Seven years on, it’s a story that refuses to go away.
“Never did I think it would cause such an impact,” admits the architect. “There are times I forget about the project but then it always comes back to remind me!”
Most recently, that’s thanks to its induction onto the Iconic Houses roll call.
Describing it as being “highly innovative and amusing”, the portal continued its praise of the Keret House by citing it as “an example of extraordinary architecture” and an “extreme example of the current trend of tiny housing.”
Szczęsny theorizes that the enduring appeal of his design is down to a confluence of factors.
“First, it provokes the imagination,” he says, “it opens doors in the head. There’s also the narrowness which, it goes without saying, interests people, as does the fact that despite its size you can still live inside. Further, I think it intrigues people because it’s also such a secluded space, a place in which people can hide: it’s a hermitage within the city.”
The dimensions feel strikingly impossible. Entered via a shaded courtyard on the capital’s ul. Chłodna 22, access comes courtesy of an electronically activated drop-down stairwell.
Covering an area of 14 sq/m, other features of the tiny home include a kitchenette and bathroom on one level, and a work space and bedroom linked above by a ladder.
“The house is equipped with everything from entrance doormats to a refrigerator,” says Szczęsny, “of course, the furnishings are designed to match the scale of the building – the miniature refrigerator is only able to hold a couple of soda cans, but nonetheless, each element is functional. Just like in a dwarf’s house.”
Administered by the Polish Foundation of Modern Art, around 40 artists have held residences in the house since its unveiling, with Polish composer Marcin Masecki going as far as to squeeze in a piano for the duration of his stay.
In no way, however, should this be viewed as anything particularly unusual: from the upcoming program of events, September 20th will see a multi-national quartet perform a series of ten-minute concerts for an audience limited to one person at a time.
Though indelibly associated with the Keret House project, Szczęsny has refused to be defined by it.
Prolific in his output, other headline designs have come thick and fast, among them a “magic” insulated coat manufactured by Aura, affordable energy saving housing and numerous exhibitions, buildings, objects and installations.
Where the latter is concerned, he is currently engaged in working on a “tower” in Bangalore composed of 1,000 stools for a design festival. “When it’s over,” says Szczęsny, “the stools will be distributed to locals so they can each have their own piece of ‘design’.”
A frontier-bending architect, the accolade of seeing the Keret House named as one of the world’s iconic houses is fitting acclaim for one of the nation’s true creative greats.