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The Idea That Came Around – The Babuk Report

The Idea That Came Around

A freshman design studio professor warned us many times that whatever in-depth design synthesis we went through to invent something original, that we could always find that someone had already come up with it before.

Pullman, a neighbourhood on the far south side of Chicago is touted as one of the first ‘planned communities’.  It was home to the Pullman Company and the Pullman Works, which built sleeper cars for passenger trains. 

The Pullman Sleeping Car
The Pullman Sleeping Car

As a sidenote, Pullman owned and operated many of these cars that in turn were part of trains operated by major railroads.  Sleeper cars are always a fascination for me, since they are designed for near total living experiences in absolute minimal space.  Kind of like a pre-cursor to minimal housing.  But that’s literary irony at this point.

The Pullman neighbourhood was self contained and self supporting, containing housing, employment centres, retail and recreational facilities.  Its housing included both temporary (the Florence Hotel) and permanent housing, its housing catered to all different social strata.

pullman 4
A street of Pullman Workers’ Cottages

Zeroing in on the “Pullman Workers’ Cottage” this fourteen foot ( 4.2m) wide housing type had two floors and an attic above a basement.  Built of masonry, it had two bedrooms on the second floor; with a living room, kitchen and dining room on the first.  While it has taken a century to happen, Pullman Workers’ Cottages have become quite trendy, rather chique one may say.





Grow Homes in Montreal
Grow Homes in Montreal

About twenty years ago, The School of Architecture at McGill University in Montreal and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation jointly developed a housing type called “The Grow Home”.  Exhaustive and groundbreaking research into housing types and formats was performed,  uncovering typical “one bedroom wide” and “two bedroom wide” formats in narrow European and eastern North American historical housing types.  From this, to develop the optimal entry level house for the Montreal real estate market, optimizing both market forces, land costs and building technology The Grow Home was devised.  It’s also 14 feet (4.2m) wide.  The first floor had living and kitchen spaces; the second floor was envisioned to be one large loft that could be subdivided through sweat equity.

I don’t recall seeing the Pullman Workers Cottage example in the research but then, there are many examples of this type of building throughout the world.  The sixteen foot (4.8m) wide rowhouses in Baltimore’s Federal Hill (discussed in a previous post) are my favourite.

"...dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer..." the Dining Car on the 20th Century Limited.
“…dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer…” the Dining Car on the 20th Century Limited.

 My thought is – why aren’t we looking at the railway cars as examples for the tiny home movement?