"MicroDwell 2014" Showcases Tiny Live-Work Spaces at Shemer Art Center in Phoenix

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Courtesy Damon Wake
A rendering of Cinder Box by Damon Wake and Hunter Floyd for "MicroDwell 2014."

Bigger doesn't always mean better.

Before your mind goes into the gutter, we're talking about housing. Tiny spaces, to be exact. "Microdwellings," to be most specific.

"MicroDwell 2014" comes to Shemer Art Center this week for a month-long hands-on look on how 600 square feet translates into a usable live-work environment. The showcase, which runs from Saturday, February 15, through Sunday, March 23, is the second installation of the event. Ten local artists, architects, and amateurs have designed and built these small studios, creating pieces that are fully functioning and aesthetically pleasing.

See also: Artel Phoenix to Return to The Clarendon Hotel in May; Installation Proposals Wanted

"MicroDwell: A Builder's Showcase of Alternative Spaces for Simple Living," debuted in late fall 2012. A handful of builders created nearly a dozen designs from repurposed materials, including siding and shipping containers. That theme continues this year, highlighting alternative techniques and environmental conscientiousness in construction. Structures are required to be self-contained, modular, and portable, and they must be smaller than 600 square feet -- the smaller the better.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, a handful of locals donned tool belts, working until late in the day on their designs. Across the neighborhood, multimillion-dollar mansions speckled Camelback Mountain, clearly visible from the street below because of their impressive square footage.

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Janessa Hilliard
Damon Wake (left) and Hunter Floyd in the main room of Cinder Box.
Architects Damon Wake and Hunter Floyd are two of those locals. The friends, who work at the firms of Candelaria Design and Corgan Associates, respectively, admit they are better-versed in rendering designs than brick-and-mortar construction (or, in the case of their 200-square-foot "Cinder Box," birch and burnt-wood siding).

The two took to the Internet to finance their project, using the crowdfunding website Crowdhoster to raise over $200 more than their original request of $5,000. All the money went directly into their design, a micro live-work space meant to reflect the dichotomy of desert life. The outer layers of rough, burnt wood -- done in the Japanese practice of shou sugi ban -- are reminiscent of the skin of a saguaro. Shou sugi ban is an ancient siding technique that involves torching building materials, a multi-step process of charring wood, cooling it, and finishing it with a natural oil to protect the structure from rot and the elements

The interior design is straightforward and raw, with plenty of light from the surrounding windows and light birch wood. The space includes a bookcase that functions as a ladder to a loft bed and a desk alcove for a small office. It's a tight squeeze (there isn't even a bathroom), but Floyd says it's one they hope to expand on and customize for potential buyers.

Created by Phoenician Patrick McCue, the "MicroDwell" exhibit was an initial reaction to the lack of true livable and affordable small spaces around the Valley. McCue, a firefighter and designer, earned significant street credit after his construction of Marwan Al-Sayed's design, "The House of Earth and Light," was featured in the première issue of Dwell magazine. From there, McCue dove into the world of contemporary construction, infusing recycled materials and transportable designs into his concepts -- and influencing a new crop of area architects along the way.


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Shemer Art Center & Museum

5005 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

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