This Tiny Apartment Is So Tall And Skinny, You Need Ladders To Move Around

In Madrid, as in most cities, housing is at a premium, so it’s becoming necessary to carve apartments out of smaller and smaller spaces. Because this one is more vertical than horizontal, you better not be afraid of heights.

At less than seven feet wide, this apartment in Madrid is skinnier than a typical parking space. But it also happens to have unusually high ceilings, and a team of architects from MYCC managed to take a little inspiration from the vertical layout of old video games and turn it into a place where someone would actually want to live.


When the architects first visited the place, it looked a little grim, but they saw potential. “It was an pretty dark empty box, but, as usually happens in those spaces, really fascinating,” says Marcos Gonzalez, one of MYCC’s founding partners. The height was the best feature, with walls taller than 16 feet.

Photo: Elena Almagro

Everything about the new design was based on the strange dimensions. “The space was designed from the long section rather than the floor plan,” Gonzalez says. “That meant a vertical view, just like those old arcade games.”

Inside, you walk into a kitchen, then downstairs to a minuscule living room. Up a Donkey-Kong-like ladder, there’s another space for studying, and down a separate set of stairs, a bedroom. A final set of stairs leads to the bathroom.

All of the stairs and levels make the apartment feel a lot more spacious than it actually is, the architects say. “The space is bigger because you need to go up and down to change ‘rooms,’” Gonzalez says. “Instead of corridors, there’s a kind of physical effort to go from one place to another. Everything is so close, every room can be seen from each other, but at the same time, somehow it’s physically far away.”

Ultra-narrow buildings are nothing new. Take a close look at certain cities in the U.S., and you’ll find spite houses, skinny houses often built hundreds of years ago by disgruntled neighbors trying to block someone else’s view. But they’re having a resurgence now–presumably without the spite–as everyone’s trying to squeeze a little more space out of crowded cities.

In Madrid, like other places, tiny apartments are a way to make living in the city affordable. The owner of this narrow apartment was able to live in a great neighborhood that might otherwise have been out of reach. “I’m sure the man who lives in this apartment would rather live in a penthouse over the city,” says Gonzalez. “But since he is not afraid of challenges and his budget is not enormous, he lives here.”


About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.