Life in outer Spaceboxes

The Matrix meets The 5th Element

The Matrix meets The 5th Element

Take a look at the picture next to this text and try and guess what these colored boxes are.

Is it a microwave?

Is it a laundromat?

Are they pods from the Matrix?

No, they are the infamous SPACEBOXES!


Each of these colored pods is a micro-sized dorm room and is home to one international student living on the Delft University campus.

Almost four years ago to the day, I was dropped off in front of this group of “houses” with just a key and a map to start my new life in Holland. The Spacebox that was mine was to become my home for the next two years.  Living in such a small space was a big adjustment but it became one of the most unique and fun places I have ever lived in.

The idea behind the Spaceboxes came out of a need to provide affordable student housing in a densely populated area. The Netherlands, especially the South Holland province where I live, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, so there is precious little space for large construction projects.

My Spacebox on move in day, August 2010 

My Spacebox on move in day, August 2010 

To cope with this, architects designed the Spaceboxes, individual dorm containers that manage to fit a sleeping area, a bathroom, and a kitchenette all into 16 square meters (172 square feet).

The weirdest feature of the spaceboxes was definitely the bathroom. It was tiny, and I mean really tiny. If any of you have ever spent a lot of time on a small sailboat, you can probably relate.

But there was an upside! You could sit on the toilet, wash your hands in the sink, and take a shower all at the same time. Talk about efficiency!

There were also some surprisingly nice features of the spaceboxes as well. Because each spacebox was its own module, there were no enclosed corridors, only open galleries and staircases. During the Dutch summer, all five days of it (link), everyone would leave their doors open or hang out outside on the walkways in the sun.  

Living small also made for a good sense of community. There were several hundred of us students living there, and I got to know most of my neighbors. We would organize parties in the common room, cook dinners together, and bond over the fact that everyone in Delft thought we were insane for living in “the microwave houses”.

These Spaceboxes are part of an larger trend towards smaller, more efficient housing. And the need for micro-size housing is not just limited to Europe, or even students for that matter. There is a noticeable push among American millennials and young professionals to live in urban walkable neighborhoods.

To meet this need, and to keep housing affordable, buildings with micro sized apartments are popping up in space-limited cities like Seattle and San Francisco (link).  

I can’t say that I’m yearning to go back to the micro living, but given the choice between a house far away in the suburbs and a smaller apartment in an urban walkable neighborhood, I’ll choose urban every time. 


What's the strangest place you've ever lived in? 

What kind of housing do you prefer? 


Prefabricated units simplify installation 

Prefabricated units simplify installation