Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lao artist designs 'world's smallest house'

Lao artist Van Bo Le-Mentzai out in Germany was recently featured on CNN for designing "The One Square-Meter House."

You can find his website here:

For $300, it has enough room to sit or, when tilted on its side, to lie down and sleep. Le-Mentzal is giving away the plans. It has a roof, a lockable door, a foldout desk and a window. When asked what was the point, he said it was about "Making us stop and think about how we live."

An interesting idea indeed. And now I have the urge to go out and try it.

So far, the conversations I've had regarding the house have been intriguing, ranging from the quickly dismissive to the genuinely intrigued. The most recurring theme on both sides of this continuum has been that the lack of of a bathroom is a bit of a deal-breaker. My personal hamster-wheel is spinning with the idea of creating a series of these across the US as a default 'artist' guesthouse for Lao American artists and community organizers, each individually decorated to the personal tastes of the host or community.

Come 2013, in Minnesota during the Lao American Writers Summit, I'd enjoy seeing an exhibit of these where three or four have been constructed to reflect particular concerns of the communities from Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois, who are the most likely to field "houses". Would we see houses that address UXO and the legacies of war, what it means to be part of Refugee Nation, or the concern for the health, education and success of Lao women? Perhaps a house that addresses Hepatitis B and the risks for Lao. The possibilities are endless. But how would you approach such a project?

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