The launch of a building in downtown São Paulo – Brazil was the talk of the town due to its surprising apartment sizes of only 10 square meters. This raised the debate about the market trend to produce ever smaller properties and the ability of these properties to meet the needs of its residents.
There is no doubt that, this type of real estate is related to newest trends of family compositions. It is increasingly common for residences to be occupied by only one person, or at most two. According to data from the SEADE Foundation for 2010, in the State of São Paulo, almost 40% of households have these characteristic, 13% of which is made up of a single resident.
Therefore, apartment buildings as small as the one that has just been released are not targeted to large families, but couples without children, emancipated young people, divorced people, or even the elderly in an increasingly aging population.
What is the minimum necessary space before compromising quality of life?
This is certainly an old discussion. It was first launched by modernist architects and urban planners in the early twentieth century, gaining special importance in the interwar period. In 1929, during the second Internacional Congress of Modern Architecture (ICMA), one of the main meetings of the modernist movement that took place in Frankfurt, the central theme was precisely this and the great architects of the time, as Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, and others, presented their thesis.
At that moment, however, it was not to discuss what should be the minimum length of the housing, but what were the basic needs of living, and it went beyond the scope of the houses and apartments itself to encompass the whole city.
It was from these discussions that the understanding about the need for public green areas, leisure areas, day care for children and collective laundries that allowed women to be especially liberated from domestic activities consolidated. There was also the understanding that the State had a duty to provide such conditions to the population by offering their equipment and services publicly and free of charge to the population.
Considering the context of a large deficit of housing due to war, for modernist architects this discussion of minimum housing was also related to the utopia of guaranteeing affordable housing for all. They argued that it would be possible to produce housing in series at a very low cost, thanks to the industrialization of construction.
Our housing needs in the current context of the city of São Paulo are also quite complex. But these real estate products of 10 square meters, sold for almost 100 thousand reais (roughly 32,000 USD), are far from that modernist utopia. Although the building has a series of equipment of collective use, such as kitchen, laundry, and area to receive visitors, equipment for residents exclusive use, certainly it will also imply high costs of the condominium.
In addition, at a cost of almost 10.000 reais per square meter, one of the largest in the city, these apartments in Vila Buarque – São Paulo will not be at all affordable for most of the population. In this context, this launch seems to be much more related to the open possibilities of, drastically reducing useful areas, to provide significant increases in the profit margins of the developer.
Originally published on Raquel Rolnik’s blog on August 21, 2017.