If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from covering the tiny house movement, it is this: From pre-teens to Etsy artisans to Rage Against the Machine tribute band drummers, micro-dwelling enthusiasts are a truly motley bunch.

Now, it appears we can officially add a bona fide starchitect in the form of Renzo Piano to the tiny house-loving fray with the introduction of a prototype tiny house dubbed Diogene. Named after the Greek philosopher/proto-minimalist/human stray dog who eschewed the luxurious trappings of conventional society by opting to live in a giant ceramic jar and eat nothing but raw onions, this aluminum-clad wooden hut clocks in at a mere 42-square-feet but is positively gigantic when it comes to the concept.

Pritzker Prize-winning Piano, 75, burst onto the architecture scene in the late 1970s with Paris' controversial, inside-out-looking Centre Georges de Pompidou and in the very active years since has become best known for his attention-grabbing skyscrapers (London’s the Shard, the New York Times Building) and museum expansions (the Art Institute of Chicago, Atlanta’s High Museum). Really, there’s nothing that could be considered unassuming about Piano’s output until Diogene, a single-occupancy, self-sustaining cabin that’s “not an emergency accommodation, but a voluntary place of retreat," came along. Although "far from some last-ditch emergency shelter," Co.Design still thinks that the portable, prefabricated structure’s simple exterior “begs for comparison with a FEMA shelter, or a particularly elegant Port-o-Potty.”

Described by Piano as “the final result of a long, long journey partially driven by desires and dreams, but also by technicality and a scientific approach,” Diogene was commissioned by high-end Swiss furniture company Vitra to be installed atop a gently sloping hill on its campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany. The campus already, quite famously, features a slew of show-stopping non-petite buildings designed by the likes of Frank Gehry (a museum), Zaha Hadid (a fire station), and a cantilevered wonder by Herzog & de Meuron that serves as the company's flagship store.

Complete with a kitchen, bathroom, and space-saving transformer furniture, Vitra describes Diogene as the company’s “smallest building — but largest product” and a “technically perfect and aesthetically attractive refuge.” I’m also guessing it’s the first work on the campus to function completely off-the-grid feature thanks to a composting toilet, triple glazing, a rainwater collection/filtration system, natural ventilation, and solar panels that supply the structure with electricity.

Explains Vitra: “Whereas Diogene's exterior corresponds to the image of a simple house, it is in truth a highly complex technical structure, equipped with various installations and technical systems that are necessary to guarantee its self-sufficiency and independence from the local infrastructure.”

And of course there are the obligatory Thoreau associations:

We live in an age in which the demand for sustainability forces us to minimise our ecological footprint. This postulate is paired with the desire to concentrate and reduce the direct living environment to the truly essential things. Diogene might remind one of Henry D. Thoreau, who wrote the following in his book Walden/Life in the Woods in 1854: 'I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.' It is no coincidence that Piano also regards his project as 'quite romantic' and emphasises the aspect of 'spiritual silence' which it conveys: 'Diogene provides you with what you really need and no more.'

There’s lot more imagery and info of the Diogene prototype home over at Vitra as well at Designboom where you'll find a video of Piano himself speaking about the “micro-home as a career-long endeavor.” Fellow Piano fans: Any thoughts on his newest, tiniest creation?

Via [Co.Design], [Designboom]

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

From Shard to shoebox: Renzo Piano does micro-housing
Famed architect Renzo Piano completes a self-sustaining micro-home named Diogene.