For thinking big about living small
One of three SCADpads

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Can you live—and live well—in a home the size of a parking space? That question was posed to faculty, staff, and students at the Savannah College of Art and Design, not as an intellectual thought experiment but as a living laboratory known as SCADpad. Since spring 2014, a trio of tiny homes installed in the SCAD Atlanta parking decks has served as a hands-on classroom and a demonstration site for experts from around the world
interested in everything from city planning to urban gardening to high-tech home design.

Most microhousing experiments are either utilitarian (emergency shelter, refugee camps) or escapist (Thoreau-inspired cottages on wheels hauled to wide-open spaces). SCADpad, on the other hand, combines a high-end aesthetic—each 135-square-foot living space is loaded with artwork, custom fixtures, and tech features like windows that transform from clear to opaque with a tap on an iPad—with a focus on community.

Feedback from students, staff, and visitors who lived in each SCADpad showed “an overwhelming trend that they enjoyed the communal aspect—
the outdoor spaces—as much as the individual units,” says Christian Sottile, dean of the SCAD School of Building Arts, which initiated the SCADpad project. “For the next phase of development, we decided to look at the whole site, shifting from a focus on residences to community.” To that end, the lab has been reconfigured to allow for more interaction between residents, with public spaces that include a huge communal table crafted from a single salvaged cypress tree inspired in part by Hogwarts, or, as Sottile calls it, “the millennial refectory.” In another space, residents and guests can hang hammocks, much like students do in Forsyth Park near SCAD’s Savannah campus. “Cohousing and coworking are what our student designers were interested in advancing, which reflects their hyperconnected world,” says Sottile.

The SCADpad team is also exploring how to replicate the experiment on a larger scale, says Sottile. The long-term goal: a viable form of urban housing, or “scaling up from three units in a parking structure that could support 300.”

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This article originally appeared in our September 2015 issue.