Have you seen the “egg house” in Beijing? If not, you should scroll down to see it below. This small “egg shape” house cost Y6400 (less than $1000) for materials. The house has a bed, a desk, a sink and a book shelve inside, and a solar panel on the top of the egg shell. The electricity of the house partly comes from solar, and partly from storage cell which is charged in the house owner’s office once per month. The water also comes from the office. The house owner laughed that water and electricity are extra welfare he gets from his employer.
The owner of the house, Haifei Dai, is an architect in a design company in Beijing. He has been bothered of the extremely high living expense of Beijing, especially the price of both rental and for-sale housing. The Chinese create a new word “snail dwelling” to describe current living situations for young people in big cities: the dwelling space for them is as small as the shell for a snail. Dai belongs to this group of young people, who is struggling to survive in Beijing.
He got the “egg house” idea from a design competition his company was involved in. He borrowed money to buy all the materials, got help from 3-4 friends he knew from college in Changsha, Hunan Province, and they spent two months building this house in Hunan. After completion, Dai spent 3000 RMB to transport the house to Beijing. Up till now, he has been living in this house for 2 months. He works in the office 8AM-12AM on weekdays, and hangs out with friends on weekends. He is happy about no need to pay rent, so that he can spend money somewhere else. He is not so worried of the cold winter.
However, Dai has been requested to move the egg house by local inspector and the property manager. The house has been sitting in the public space of a neighborhood. Can the egg house survive? Will it go indoor under the pressure? Or become an art piece on the lawn of a museum?
I feel both inspired and helpless when I see the collision of extraordinarily innovative talent and the cruel surviving rule. How can we make cities more affordable so that they can be more diverse and amenable? New York has been an often-used example to demonstrate how to accommodate wealthy investment bankers and great artists in one city. But you can also see artists migrating from SOHO to Brooklyn and then to? It is a common issue for all the mega cities. Is compact dwelling an approach to the solution?