Is Less Actually More?

Zhi Han Chew By Zhi Han Chew, 7th Jul 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Science>Home Experiments

This article shows you HOW LESS IS MORE and what is the current technology in Hong Kong.

Twenty-four Rooms in One

Gary Chang stood in the middle of his Hong Kong apartment on a recent Saturday morning, looking at a wall-size screen. He stepped on the balance board of his Nintendo Wii game system for a second run of downhill skiing and began to shift from side to side, moving in time with a computer-generated figure across the room from him.

Soon enough, having worked up an appetite, he was ready to move on. He used a remote control to raise the screen, revealing a large yellow-tinted window behind it, filling the room with radiance. “Like sunshine,” Mr. Chang said, though the colorized gray daylight made the view – a forest of apartment towers in Hong Kong’s Sai Wan Ho district – look like an old sepia print.

He grabbed a handle near the wall-mounted television, pulling a section of the wall itself toward the center of the room. Behind it, a small countertop with , a sink and a spice rack appeared. Opposite the countertop, on the back of the now-displaced wallm he lowered a hinged worktop. Suddenly, he was standing in a kitchen.

This room… and the “video game room” he was sitting in minutes before are just two of at least twenty-four different layouts that Mr. Chang, an architect, can impose on his 344-suare-foot apartment. What appears to be an open-plan studio actually contains many rooms, because of sliding wall unites, fold-down tables, and chairs.

Mr. Chang, forty-six, has lived in this seventh-floor apartment since he was fourteen, when he moved in with his parents and three younger sisters; they rented it from a woman who owned so much property that she often forgot to collect payment.

Like most of the 360 units in the 17-story building, which dates to the 1960s, the small space was partitioned into several tiny rooms – in this case, three bedrooms a kitchen, a bathroom and a hallway. Mr. Chang’s parents shared the master bedroom though when they first moved in, his father lived in the United States, where he worked as a waiter at Chinese restaurants in various cities. His sisters shared a second bedroom, and the third, almost incredibly – although not unusually for Hong Kong – was occupied by a tenant, a woman in her twenties, whom Mr. Chang remembers only for the space she took up. Mr. Chang slept in the hall way, on a sofa bed.

These days, he uses a… Murphy bed of his own design, which was hidden behind a sofa during the day. “That old routine of folding out the bed is similar in spirit to what I do today,” he said. “But the reasons are different. Then, it was just necessary. Now, it’s all about transformation, flexibility, and maximizing space.”

Mr. Chang’s experiment in flexible living began in 1988, when his family moved into a bigger apartment a few blocks away, with his grandparents and uncles. His mother suggested that he take over the lease on their old apartment “because the rent was unusually low,” he said. He had been wanting to tear down the walls since his teenage years. In the last , he has remodeled four times. His latest effort took a year and cost just over $218, 000.

Mr. Chang hopes that some of his home’s innovations might be replicated to help improve domestic life in Hong Kong, which has been troubled in recent years. The population grew by nearly a half-million in just the last ten years, and between 2003 and 2007, there has been an increase in reports of domestic problems, at least partly caused by the city’s shortage of space.

“It’s a big problem,” Mr. Chang said.

“Killing each other is not uncommon. People feel trapped,” he said. “We have to find wyas to live together in very small spaces.”

In Mr. Chang’s solution, a kind of human-size briefcase, everything can be folded away so that the space feels expansive.

The wall units, which are suspended from… the ceiling, seem to float an inch above the… floor. As they are shifted around, the apartment laundry room, dressing room, living room, an enclosed dining area, and a wet bar.

One can imagine three, possibly four people living here, using Mr. Chang’s double bed and the guest bed that folds down over the bathtub – through six or sevem the number of residents when Mr. Chang was growing up, would be another matter.

Buying a new department might have been a less expensive solution to his storage problem, he admits. “But why do that?” he asked as he stood in the kitchen making noodle soup. “I see my place as an ongoing experiment.”

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Less, Less Is More, More

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author avatar A K Rao
9th Jul 2012 (#)

Wow! I wish I had a look at this wondeful apartment! Few pictures added would have made this article more interesting! Thanks a lot for sharing such a beautiful blog dear Zhi Han Chew!

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author avatar Zhi Han Chew
9th Jul 2012 (#)

You are welcome.

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