Alone Together

Humans are social creatures, but we all need somewhere to retreat to — even more so in a metropolis where space is limited


With this is mind, Shihhwa Hung and Phoebe Wen of PhoebeSaysWow Architects Ltd. set out to turn this 33-square-metre micro-apartment in Taipei into a prototype of minimalist, gender-neutral living.

When Hung and Wen imagine the individual who might call this apartment home, they imagine someone who appreciates the spatial quality — the niches that allow the individual to feel alone even when they’re not — and makes use of it for social gatherings, for which it’s surprisingly well-equipped despite its petite proportions.

The double-height space has been divided into three levels. From the entry level, a moveable staircase leads up to the mezzanine bedroom, while a set of bench steps leads down to the multipurpose kitchen and dining area and the bathroom. Aside from serving their obvious purpose, the ladder and stairs play an important function in the home’s social layout: they also act as multilevel seating areas. While not your average entertainment setup, according to the designers, ‘the three-dimensional levels of seating encourage a dynamic conversation within the apartment’.

The designers formulated an effective visual language by employing two contrasting and complementary materials: birch wood and glazed tiles with cherry-pink grout. ‘The idea is to minimise the use of material to create a wider and continuous view,’ they explain.

Birch features most prominently in the floor-to-ceiling shelving unit — set along the entire left side of the apartment — that consists of bookshelves, kitchen cabinets and, on the upper level, wardrobes.

The kitchen, dining and bathroom areas received a similar treatment, although here a delightful hue of cherry pink has been cross-hatched on the surfaces.

Staying true to the narrative of ‘sometimes solitary, sometimes social’, the birch was chosen to imbue a sense of warmth and comfort, while the pink and white tiling is intended to lift the spirits and declutter the mind.

This apartment, at once private and inviting, and playful yet understated, is an exciting indicator of what smart urban living could look like.

Text / Simone Schultz
Images / Hey!Cheese