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At Salone del Mobile, MINI LIVING’s "Breathe" house offers a futuristic vision of compact city living.

Sustainability and space are subjects that weigh heavy on Ilias Papageorgiou, principal at architecture firm So-Il, and Oke Hauser, creative lead at MINI LIVING. After pondering mounting challenges about life in urban habitats, the two came together at this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan to propose creative solutions for city living. The result was the “Breathe” house, a compact, conscious response to dwindling resources.

“Breathe” establishes a dialogue with the natural and built environments, but it also encourages what you call “shared living” among the home’s inhabitants. Will that change the way families interact?

Ilias Papageorgiou: The idea of dwelling is changing. Technology has transformed the boundaries between where we live and work, and we’re constantly moving between them. We don’t need more space—we need more flexible space. The traditional house based on the nuclear family is organized with fixed rooms dedicated to specific functions. This house is a loose stack of porous realms with different atmospheres.

With a sense of community so ingrained in the project’s concept, how much privacy does the design afford?

Ilias: The ideas of privacy and publicness are no longer black and white. We explore the many shades between with layers of fabric that offer varying degrees of privacy or openness.

How will “Breathe” change the way people interact with their surroundings?

Ilias: Discussions about our environment can’t be addressed merely through technical solutions or certifications. It requires a change in mentality. “Breathe” aims to make people more aware of their surroundings and environment. Air, light and water flow throughout the installation. Sounds, smells and moving silhouettes of people contribute to an immersive experience. You feel the connection to the exterior wherever you stand.

The installation was erected on 50 square meters in a narrow city alley. Can it be adapted to other cities?

Ilias:  The current structure can fit in many urban locations. We approached adaptability with the idea of transforming the installation’s performance to its location. In Milan we tested translucent fabric that also purifies the air, but in a colder climate we could switch to an insulating fabric to create warmth inside. Think of it as a jacket that you change depending on the weather.


  • Words:
    MacKenzie Lewis Kassab
  • Photography:
    Marianne Jacobsen and Nana Hagel

Are there elements of “Breathe” that people living in traditional homes might adopt?

Ilias: Certainly. We’re exploring the main ideas of sharing resources and connectedness on other housing projects, including an affordable housing complex in León, Mexico. There, besides the private space of the apartments, we provide shared spaces for communal activities like laundry or barbecues. The building façade is a series of precast concrete panels arranged to control the apartments’ openness. For tiNY, a New York micro-housing proposal, we designed a tower with a thin profile that gives every apartment direct access to the exterior from both sides, for light and cross-ventilation.

What was the impetus for an installation addressing space in an urban environment?

Oke Hauser: MINI is a quintessentially urban brand, and since 1959 we’ve approached the challenge of urban mobility by offering maximal experience on a minimal footprint. We’re now applying this philosophy to urban living. We’re considering quality, areas for improvement, and consciousness. MINI LIVING allows us to explore solutions and share ideas, and the “Breathe” installation pushes limits while contributing to sustainable urban living.

What impact do you hope the installation has on visitors?

Oke: We want to inspire them to rethink what a house can be and how it can perform to improve inner-city life. In a world that’s constantly evolving, why should our homes remain the same?

This post is produced in partnership with MINI LIVING.

You feel the connection to the exterior wherever you stand.

  • Words:
    MacKenzie Lewis Kassab
  • Photography:
    Marianne Jacobsen and Nana Hagel

You feel the connection to the exterior wherever you stand.

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