Ever wonder how small a living space can actually get? Or how cheap? There’s been an explosion of innovation in housing design this year—all in the name of creating sustainable homes that work with unconventional lifestyles and budgets.
There was the $20,000 affordable house. Or tiny wooden dorm room "boxes" that are only 10 square meters large. And a vision for an entire luxury building of pico-dwellings, taking compact living to even higher heights. Or 3-D printing entire homes.
Of course, design isn’t only about physical living spaces. It’s about ideas and about how we feel in our environments. Designers this year helped push our thinking forward to the future, sometimes beyond where practical reality is ready to go quite yet. Sometimes designers were just having some fun—as with these fart-proof underwear. Read about them and more below (and you can read last year's list here, if you want more).
For years, students at Auburn University's Rural Studio have been building cheap houses for impoverished locals. Now their designs are going mass market.
The poor attempt by cell phone companies to disguise our mobile infrastructure as something natural is almost insulting. Photographer Dillon Marsh has documented some of the most egregious examples.
3-D printing technology is nearing at a tipping point that makes it actually affordable—but only if you really need that jewelry organizer or garlic press.
Micro-apartments are in vogue today. But in Japan, people have been living in the Nakagin Capsule Tower's 100-square-foot housing for decades.
Today, the best shelter we can usually offer the world’s tens of millions of refugees is a tent. So the folks who make your bookcase (and bed, and table) have designed a cheap, solar-powered hut that only takes four hours to assemble but offers refugees more protection and privacy.
Housing is expensive. So why not have students live in cubes they can afford? That's the idea behind the "smart student unit."
Truly world-changing innovation.
Chairigami’s furniture is made from recycled cardboard and there’s no assembly required: They don’t use any glue or fasteners.
For April Fools’, sex toy maker Lelo introduced the Gäsm, a totally sustainable vibrator. But response to the joke was so strong that the company is considering creating a real version. Though it probably won’t have any recycled tires.
Would people use condoms more if they felt better when you were having sex? That's the million dollar bet the foundation is making in its contest to redesign the rubber, with innovations like condoms that tighten while you have sex.
The Walking-Shelter set of kicks means you’re never far from home, because home can be wherever you set up your shoe-tent.
For years, Urban Omnibus has been collecting ideas to make cities friendlier and more comfortable places to live. Here are the cream of the crop, with a little design flair.
There are small apartments, and then there is Steve Sauer's pico dwelling, bringing the concept of compact living to new heights. Sauer's vision: an entire luxury apartment building full of them.
Instead of learning to code from a course or a book, Jennifer Dewalt dove into coding with no experience whatsoever. This is what happened.
Scientists already are working on 3-D printing organs. If we can do that, a house should be easy.
Artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s Stop Telling Women To Smile posters seek to remind men that just because they see a woman on the street, it doesn’t entitle them to a conversation—or even a smile.
Read more of our best stories of the year in these categories: Top stories, infographics, photography, maps, buildings, design, cities, food, transportation, innovative workplaces, bikes, collaborative consumption, energy, crowdfunding, robots, environment, health, education