Small architecture meets global challenges
Stop consuming start constructing – the German architect, DIY expert and DAN ACADEMY speaker Van Bo Le-Mentzel has become famous for his Bauhaus-inspired DIY design furniture collection with the provocative name “Hartz-IV furniture”. Socially critical and radically innovative at the same time, he extended the idea of democratic design to a living concept. In 2010 he presented a 21 square meter “Hartz IV apartment”. A bit later the “100-Euro Apartment” was created as a so-called tiny house. Over the next few years, Van Bo gathered a lot of experience on the concepts of social housing, tiny houses and social neighborhoods.
In 2015, he founded the Tinyhouse University. The aim of the Berlin collective of designers, educational activists and refugees is to look at social neighborhoods from a creative perspective. The tiny houses offer space for conversations and artistic interventions that not only revolve around communal living but also address themes such as gentrification, new work, educational and architectural culture, and urban nomadism. For Van Bo, the idea behind the tiny houses on wheels also has something to do with the contrast between the European idea of settlers and nomadism: “Maybe, migration is also a normal state,” says the creative. “In winter, I can live in Spain or Thailand and in summer in Germany. Ultimately, it is part of our human nature to wander and to live in communities and neighborhoods.“
NEW PATHS IN THE EDUCATION AND BUILDING CULTURE
From March 2017 to March 2018, he curated the “Bauhaus Campus Berlin” – an artistic experiment at the Bauhaus Archive / Museum of Design – on the basis of the tiny houses. The temporary campus of mini-houses utilizes the new living concepts as rooms for discussion and is, above all, intended to create a space of possibilities for democratic utopias for people with and without German citizenship. The campus is a place of joint study, construction and research into new and fairer forms of togetherness.
THE BAUHAUS ON WHEELS
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, Van Bo designed a miniature version of the workshop wing of the Dessau Bauhaus in collaboration with the Berlin-based art space Savvy Contemporary, the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, the Goethe-Institute Kinshasa and Para Site Hong Kong. When asked about the social and political role of design and architecture, Van Bo answers: “For me, the Bauhaus is the creative reaction of the designers to the end of the monarchy and the beginning of a new era: democracy”. According to this credo, the mobile research laboratory tours the whole country as a place of critical dialogue. The main topics of discussion will be housing shortages and construction suitable for your grandchildren but also the political status quo.
FOUNDING THE TINY FOUNDATION
With his experience and the increasing requests from authorities, companies, universities, schools and private individuals, he decides to found his own agency the Tiny Foundation in 2019. The aim of the agency for social neighborhoods is to help people in (housing) need: Homeless people, housing seekers, communities and others who lack a social neighborhood. By advising, building, educating, offering workshops and providing concepts for community living in the city, the members of the Tiny Foundation create a space for social togetherness.
TINY BUFFER ZONES FOR A VIVIT SOCIETY
For Van Bo, however, the tiny houses do not only offer potential living space – which is not yet possible in Germany according to the current legal situation. He dreams of special parking cards for the tiny houses, which are spread all over the cities and form sort of a buffer zone between a completely private and completely public space. Exactly for this reason, something different than in your office or your apartment can happen there. These spaces are created for those who engage themselves in projects for society: Tutoring, childcare, food sharing, libraries or neighborhood cinemas.