Compact living:: Diogene house by Renzo Piano Building Workshop

It’s time to fill up the series with one more tiny house which, despite its modest dimensions, is completely self-sufficient and has everything needed for a normal person’s living. It was named Diogene, after the antique Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope, and designed by a famous Italian architect Renzo Piano.

According to the architect, he has dreamed of a project like this since his student days, but back then he was unable to realise it. In 2000, Renzo decided to develop this project for himself, without any particular client. This work resulted in several prototypes, made of plywood, concrete and wood. The latter was published in 2009 in Italian design magazine Abitare, where it was noticed by Rolf Fehlbaum, chairman of Vitra AG. Rolf felt attracted to the idea and immediately contacted Renzo, inviting him to carry out the project together. Finally, after three years of joint work the most recent prototype of Diogene was presented at the Vitra Campus.

Now about the prototype itself. So, Diogene is a small house for one person, assembled from wood and coated with aluminium panelling. Probably, it is quite similar to The Cube Project, which we have featured earlier, however, Diogene is even smaller – its dimensions are only 2.5 x 3 x 2.3 metres. Despite this, the authors managed to find space for a living room with a pull-out sofa and desk, toilet with a pan and shower as well as a small kitchen with a sink, cooking top and fridge.

Although the appearance of Diogene creates the impression of a very simple house, it is literally packed with modern engineering systems that allow it to go without local urban infrastructure and to be placed almost anywhere. Everything that Diogene needs for functioning it gets literally from the sky: solar panels provide the house with electricity; rainwater is collected and filtered in special tanks under the house, and, when required, heated by a boiler on the roof. The selection of materials and triple glazing insure insulation, which allows efficient use of natural ventilation.

The authors of the project suggest using Diogene as a weekend house, studiolo or a small office; it allows its owner to escape from everyday rush and find peace and solitude. A group of such houses can be also used as an informal hotel or guest house. Diogene currently exists only as a test prototype and the decision of its further development and series production will be made later based on the reaction of the audience.

This article is a part of the ‘Compact Living’ series. You can read about other designs of compact houses and apartments on this page.


ARCHITECTURE: Renzo Piano Building Workshop
DESIGN TEAM: S.Scarabicchi, E.Donadel (partner and associate in charge), E.Rossato-Piano, M.Menardo, P.Colonna
CONSULTANTS: Favero & Milan Ingegneria (structure); Transsolar Energietechnik (MEP); Vitra AG (project management, cost control)


One reply on “Compact living:: Diogene house by Renzo Piano Building Workshop”
  1. says: ilmarinen g vogel

    I am working on a tiny house project. i appreciate the work you have done on the off-grid infrastructure. please keep me informed about future and past tiny houses. also, please quote the price for the cost of a set of working drawings.
    thank you,
    highest regards,
    ilmarinen g. vogel.

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