From transformative British Canadian “microlofts” to barely legal, SmartCar-inspired San Francisco rental units, here in North America, dramatically downsized and simplified urban apartments have become somewhat au courant over the past couple of years. (Grist recently published an interesting take on a prime example of this trend, Graham Hill’s LifeEdited apartment in Manhattan.)

In other parts of the world, take Hong Kong for example, living a clutter-free existence in an urban shoebox doesn’t exactly fall into the minimalist chic category — it’s a way of life for thousands upon thousands of residents living in a city plagued by a dire affordable housing crisis. Priced out of more spacious options, many working-class Hong Kong residents have taken to squeezing their entire families into incredibly claustrophobic subdivided rental units. Some of these units, known as “cages” and “coffins,” are as small as 30 square feet. And as evidenced in the video that's embedded below, these apartments can get even smaller than that.

As a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the fanciful, fluffed-up vernacular used by real estate agents peddling up-market properties in the city, Chinese University of Hong Kong MFA student Joe Yiu unveiled King’s Cube, a fresh-on-the-market luxury apartment building (soon to be renamed "Universe Peninsula") that's located in a super-desirable part of town. King's Cube residents opt to don formal wear as a "mark of their prominent status" and the building's 1970s-era lift is "best suited for residents who pursue a classic lifestyle in nostalgia."

The show-stopping model flat at King's Cube is a 16-square-foot luxury unit that comes complete with “elegant” wood flooring, contemporary art, stylish decor, air conditioning, wireless internet and “international-class marble." An array of houseplants gives the space green appeal while the unit's window is ideal for watching the seasons change while sipping on a fine red wine.

The six-minute video tour of King’s Cube — itself a spoof of promo videos for Hong Kong luxury properties with significantly more square footage — was filmed within a dilapidated housing complex in the Sham Shui Po district. All 16 square feet of the show unit depicted in the video were gussied up to resemble a "small size boutique apartment." The apartment, complete with single bed, window and nothing else, rents for about $13 a night. At the end of the video, an actual unit in the building is revealed.

Explains Yiu: "I wanted to talk about the language and help the audience reflect on how estate agents and property developers dictate the style of an ideal living space. I'm concerned about the living environment in Hong Kong, particularly about what we consider to be an ideal home environment.”

CNN International notes that the going rate for the apartment “translates to HK$65.60 per square meter per night, more expensive than Sorrento, one of Hong Kong’s most expensive residential complexes and pricier than a Harbor View Suite at the YMCA of Hong Kong, which comes with a private bathroom, minibar, daily housekeeping and buffet breakfast.”

Via [CNN International], [Grist]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

King's Cube: 16 square feet of royally cramped living
Hong Kong's notorious 'cubicle' apartments are given the luxury treatment in an eye-opening viral video that lampoons the real estate rhetoric used to sell apar