I have long wondered what makes the Tiny House Movement such that it is. Movement is just a moniker, right? By definition, the word movement means…well, in the case of tiny houses the appropriate definition is probably a series of organized activities working toward an objective. 1 For a long time, I felt the appropriate definition was instead, a tactical or strategic shifting of a unit. Afterall, the modern tiny house movement existed in large part to shift the thinking of what a house is in America. It was strategic and still is. But after some time of pondering the concept, I have landed upon the idea that the Tiny House Movement is such because within exists styles that challenge the genre on the whole but don’t entirely change it. Simply put, the difference between an architectural movement and an architectural style is basically that one determines the other. If the end game were for everyone to live in a tiny house or tiny house on wheels that looks strikingly similar to Jay Shafer’s Fencl then it would be a full-fledged movement. America will have gone from Point A to Point B and stopped. As a movement, it is shaped by styles. We have modern looking tiny houses, cottage looking tiny houses, rustic looking tiny houses and the list goes on. Materials used range from laboratory created surfaces to live edge wood. We have skoolies and conversion vans. There are people living on boats and in RVs. But all identify with the basic tenants of the tiny house movement: small footprint, less consumption, more investment in experience.
Let us try to make sense of this. If we talk about modern architecture as an architectural movement, we are essentially referring to a specific period in architectural history. Architects came up with new thoughts and a new idealism about architecture that was completely against the grain of architectural thought at the time (Victorian, Queen Anne, etc). As the movement caught on its ideas became so logical and so common that more and more architects began to follow the principles and theory. These same architects started to develop a new way of conceiving and designing their buildings, giving way only to their own understanding of the movement. However, they continued to follow the styles and principle set by the movement.
The style is determined by the movement. Let’s set that on the modern tiny house movement.
Each tiny house we encounter is different; custom. But their style is determined by the movement or the principle that bigger is not better and smaller footprints are paramount.
Right now the most popular tiny house on wheels style is one with a shed roof sloping from side to side. The windows are large and typically gliding (or accordion style) and feature similar appliances and floorplans. But each builder has his own style. Perch and Nest out of North Carolina tends to use a rough cedar-like texture on their interior walls. Wood Iron Tiny Homes from Oregon use live edges on their countertops, shelves, and trim. Utopian Villas mixes textures: wood, glass, and tile.
It can be a difficult concept trying to decide if what we are involved with is a movement or a style. Perhaps if there were a large transition in the American landscape, favoring small homes, the tiny house ___________ would be a style rather than a movement.
What do you think? What is your understanding of movement and style? Is it a true architectural movement? Are we the Tiny House Movement?