Courtesy of Rosa de Jong

An artist has crafted the housing equivalent of ships in a bottle.

It’s as if Amsterdam-based artist Rosa de Jong took the traditional ship-in-a-bottle idea and turned it on its head.

For her latest ongoing project, “Micro Matter,” de Jong replaced the bottle with glass test tubes and ships with intricately handmade housing structures barely the size of your palm. Inspired by a desire to “go into the art,” she built a series of landscapes that include skyscrapers resting on a puff of cloud, houses sitting on mounds of rocks, and tents shadowed by towering trees. The tubes stand vertically, and in some pieces, the buildings look like specimens suspended in mid-air, as if the land were floating in the sky.

“It can still be abstract, but I really love it if there is space inside, a small world to go to,” she wrote in a press statement sent to reporters.

A video posted by rosa de jong (@byrosa) on

De Jong used a range of materials from the outdoors: sticks brought in by her cat, sand from the Monument Valley, and rocks from the campsites of the Caribbean island of Curacao. As for the design of the buildings, which are made using cardboard, de Jong says she mostly winged it. “Nothing is planned,” she tells CityLab via email. “I just look at it while working on it, put it in a tube, see how it looks, maybe change something.’” Each piece, she adds, inspires the next.

At first, she’d start by sketching each design, but she often found herself lost in trying to transfer tiny details from the paper to the actual model. Still, each building is filled with intricate bits. Everything from the roofs to the wires and greenery that surrounds each building has been meticulously put in place with tweezers. Dissect one of her tiny cottages and you can see that the tiny details are anything but simple.

Courtesy of Rosa de Jong
Courtesy of Rosa de Jong

Originally, de Jong had wanted to make miniature cities with trains running through them. But she eventually abandoned the project after becoming fixated on perfecting the gears that made the trains move. They would take her days, and de Jong says she’s never been fond of long-term undertakings.

So, armed with a handful of test tubes that she’d bought on a whim, she settled on a shorter project. Each piece in her “Micro Matter” series took her less than a day to complete, which meant that she could promptly see her creations come alive. That, she says, was most important to her.

The project is ongoing, and so far, de Jong has made more than a dozen pieces. Until it gets “boring,” she wrote in her statement, “I still feel like there are more worlds to create.”

Courtesy of Rosa de Jong
Courtesy of Rosa de Jong
Courtesy of Rosa de Jong
Courtesy of Rosa de Jong
Courtesy of Rosa de Jong
Courtesy of Rosa de Jong
Courtesy of Rosa de Jong

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Environment

    Let's All Swim in the Once-Filthy Canals of Paris

    Unlike many cities, the French capital has made good on its promise to re-open urban waterways to bathers. How did they do it?  

  2. Transportation

    Do Driverless Cars Need Their Own Roads Around Manhattan?

    A concept for AV expressways promises to reduce travel times, but falls into an old trap of car-centric planning.

  3. Equity

    Trump to the Rust Belt: Move Somewhere Else

    The president told upstate New Yorkers to move to a red state with jobs, even as his planned budget cuts promise to make their lives more difficult.

  4. Equity

    Why Jimmy Carter Believes Housing Is a Basic Human Right

    Richard Florida talks to the former president about housing, Habitat for Humanity, and how government assistance enabled their current success.

  5. Videos

    5 Ways to Seriously Battle Traffic

    So long as cars are among us, road pricing, ramp meters, and diamond-shaped intersections can mitigate horrendous commutes, a new video explains.