Saturday, February 23, 2013

small, smaller, smallest

Most people, if asked, would like a little bigger flat. A separate bedroom. A little more storage space. A walk-in closet. Separate rooms for the children. A balcony. A larger balcony.

My apartment with its 35 square meters is an average small apartment in Hungary. In Hong Kong, one of the world’s most expensive real estate markets, where the average price per square meter is approximately ten thousand euros, the small apartment means something different. Sometimes it is also a daring dream to turn the bed across the apartment.
As estimated, about a hundred thousand people might live in similarly tight dens, but, due to the illegally divided up living areas, the real number could also be a multiple of this. Such housing often leads to depression and mental disturbances. (Even more terrible conditions than these are shown on Brian Cassey’s photos.)

The crowded conditions are somewhat reminiscent of the living distress of early 20th-century European cities, but also differ from them. While in the pictures of Hong Kong we often see absurdly narrow single cells, in Europe it was more characteristic that in rooms of normal size (that is, corresponding to local standards), much more people – up to fifteen or twenty – were crowned into than originally planned.
In early 20th-century Budapest, for example, this congestion mainly extended to properties not provided with public services (mains water and sewerage fled). This situation, threatening with pandemic, and indeed from time to time causing epidemics, was answered by the authorities by prompt forced eviction, and on the long term by boosting social constructions. But a hundred years ago, these cities still had plenty of room to expand.

Compartments similar to these drawer-sized rooms were designed in a part of the People’s Hostel at Aréna (Dózsa György) street, built in the 1910s in the frameworks of the Bárczy Program. These rooms were let out to workers who were single or left their families in the countryside. We can imagine what might have been the conditions, which were enhanced by this development. On the People’s Hostel, which in 2012 entered in the rank of the hundred year old houses, we want to write in the near future.

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