Renzo Piano is no slouch when it comes to thoughtful design. He created the much celebrated Academy of Science in San Francisco, with its living roof; the Art Institute addition in Chicago and "the Shard"- London's tallest building. As his celebrated architectural practice has delivered some of the largest and most complex buildings in the world, Mr. Piano has remained intrigued by the question, "How small can you go?"
A few years ago, the Renzo Piano Workshop developed an exploratory prototype, trying to answer that question. It was an unfinished project, as he then stated, because it needed a true client for completion. And then along came Rolf Fehlbaum of Vitra, the world-renowned furniture manufacturer and purveyor of fine objets d'art.
Vitra is displaying a fully developed prototype this summer at the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Switzerland. At 2.5 X 3 meters (about 8' 3" X 9'-10") this is the largest object Vitra has ever manufactured. As a house, however, it is exceedingly small - about 80 square feet. It is also quite complex, a living machine with technology to create its own energy and endlessly recycle water and waste.
The uber-minimal house is a potent symbol; Mr. Piano cites numerous precedents and influences for his project, beginning with Vitruvius, Diogenes (the project's namesake) Le Corbousier, Prouve and others. We are impressed by a man who keeps the small design problems close, even as he solves much larger ones.
You can find out more about this small-is-beautiful project at the Vitra site It appears that you may order your very own Diogenes House - soon.