More Big Thoughts on Living Small: Parkside Studios & Hotel Churchill

Micro-units – rental dwelling units that are 300 square feet or less in floor area – continue to be a hot topic in the press and on the web. Micro-fever is catching here at Studio E Architects as well, with two projects on the boards that will offer two distinct approaches to living small.

The first is Parkside Studios in Sunnyvale, California: a sixty-one unit micro-unit project in the mold of Archer Studios, will use the latest in prefab construction technology. The second is the renovation of the historic Hotel Churchill in downtown San Diego: a seven-story, seventy-three unit single-room-occupancy (SRO) residential hotel in downtown’s East Village, built in 1913 in anticipation of the Panama-California Exposition.

Coming soon to Sunnyvale, California – Parkside Studios

 A major reason for the uptick in micro-unit construction is one of simple economics – as the U.S. population becomes increasingly urban, the supply of conventional housing types in urban areas is strained to keep pace with increased demand, and rents are skyrocketing. As a result, a significant portion of the population’s fastest growing demographic – one- & two-person households – is effectively priced out of the market. These renters are left with a choice between two alternatives – find less expensive housing further away from the urban core and commute, or subsidize the cost of more expensive housing in the city by packing in additional roommates. Micro-unit apartments are being touted within the development community and by the leaders of our cities as a solution to this problem.


The soon-to-be-renovated Hotel Churchill, circa 1930.

This shift of favor toward the compact extends beyond the bounds of urban real estate and planning, however, and can be at least partially credited to a cultural shift in our attitudes toward “stuff” – the acquisition and storage of which is major driver in our needs for dwelling space. Advances in technology have reduced the spatial footprints of entire libraries into that of an iPad, allowing for access to a wealth of culture, media, and entertainment at the touch of a button – with less residual clutter and expense. Combine this with an elevated eco-consciousness that has lead people in recent generations to more carefully consider the impacts of their decisions on the world around them, and you have the necessary ingredients for the emergence of creative new solutions to accomplish more with less.

In our research for our micro-unit projects, we’ve come across a pair of interesting case studies/videos that resonate with this second explanation. The first video, from the folks at LifeEdited, profiles a self-built micro unit in Seattle – whose creator has christened it the “pico dwelling”. While it seems to ingeniously accommodate all of life’s necessary functions in task-specific compartments (#Lifestyle as designed by an Engineer), and is an impressive exercise in DIY – it has a patchwork quality that lacks the Architect’s sense of the “greater-whole”…or the quality that takes something beyond mere problem solving into art. Adds John: “Can you really trust a man that wears capri pants? (Manpris?)”


The “Pico Dwelling”, Manpris not shown for clarity.  Image credit Benjamin Benschneider/Seattle Times

This second video is a TED talk about scaling down – a short pitch for going “anti-materialist”. While it sort of ignores the fact that a lot of folks have hobbies, pets, partners, (maybe even kids!) that would require some accommodation of “stuff” – the basic idea of thinking hard about what you need and what is of real value seems a worthwhile and noble pursuit.

What are your thoughts? What are the things in your life that have proven the most purge-resistant and would have to be accommodated in any dwelling space, no matter how small? How small is too small? Let us know how you feel in the comments section below!

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9 Responses to More Big Thoughts on Living Small: Parkside Studios & Hotel Churchill

  1. Woodrow says:

    It seems you really understand quite a lot regarding this subject and it shows by means of this excellent article.
    Thanks -Woodrow

  2. I am impressed! So are Sunnyvale Studios suitable for oil field workers? I hope you will get back to me ASAP.

    • John says:

      Greetings, and thanks for the comment! These type of units are perfect where affordable workforce housing is needed. Feel free to call or write us with any questions, or to discuss opportunities for this type of development in North Dakota.

      (619) 235-9262

  3. I am really impressed by the above designs . The manufacture of modular buildings can be done in several different ways, depending on the application, the intended use, the space and access available. Off site construction delivers fast, accurate and affordable solutions to permanent, temporary and relocatable building requirements for healthcare, education, developer and commercial projects.

    • josh says:

      Thank you for the comment, Stuert. We are excited to see how the modular process can benefit our residential projects. We’ve had some success previously in our educational projects, but this is our first foray into modular housing. Stay tuned for more updates!

  4. Mr. Perlman says:

    On your blog, I get some useful information about real estate and also get to take a look at another San Diego community blog. That’s awesome 🙂 But how can I find these properties in the San Diego county area?

    • josh says:

      Hello Mr. Perlman,

      Thanks for reading, and for the kind compliments! As to your question, we don’t really have access to leads on these properties, but if you find some that you think have potential – feel free to give us a call!

      Thank you,


  5. Pingback: Parkside Studios Prefab | THRESHOLD

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