With an the estimated increase of one million residents by 2030 announced in Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC report, housing will have to change to accommodate a growing population. Today, almost half of the NYC population is single and nearly a third of all households are a single person living alone. Only about 18% of the city’s housing is occupied by a nuclear family. Minimum unit size is set at 400 sq. ft., a number that arose partly as a result of the horrid conditions of Tenement Housing in the early 20th century. However, considering the technological advances that have eliminated many of the dangers of living in small, close quarters and help save space, Making Room suggests it may be time to reconsider some of the laws created in the 20th century that may not accommodate 21st century lifestyles and preferences.
Making Room features both conceptual housing designs and projects that have been realized both domestically and abroad. On the more conceptual side, five teams’ projects from a challenge issued by the CHPC in partnership with the Architectural League of New York in 2011 showcase mini-studios for single adults, shared housing options and options for extended families. Additionally, several project proposals from the City-sponsored adAPT competition that took place in July 2012, feature projects by developer/architect teams. The competition called for proposals to design a building of micro-units for small, one to two person households. Most exciting perhaps, the winning design will be built on East 27th Street in Manhattan to see how it fares in the competitive New York City marketplace.
While conceptual projects are an important step in determining which designs work best, it is also exciting to know that some designs are actually realized. Jerilyn Perine, Executive Director of CHPC, explains, “Seeing what is being built in cities around the world, and understanding how our rules have held back housing change, will help educate visitors and spur an important discussion of what our future housing should look like and how we can get there.” Real world projects from global urban centers such as San Diego, Montreal, Seattle, and Tokyo offer inspiration and spark new ideas for how we may adapt to changing family structures and new environmental conditions.
If models and designs are not enough to convince attendees, the 325 sq. foot “LaunchPad” is a life-size model allows visitors to walk through a micro-housing unit. Although the L-shaped unit is considered too small by NYCs minimum unit size standards, it complies with all other building codes as verified by Amie Gross Architects. Despite its small size, several features make it highly habitable. The interior features smart design and convertible furnishings that were designed by designed by Pierluigi Colombo and constructed by the Italian company Clei s.r.l. and Resource Furniture. A transforming wall bed system allows the living space to function as both a social, gathering spot and a sleeping area at night. Similarly, bookshelves, storage, sofas, tables and desks can be tucked away or pulled out when needed. A large-screen TV is mounted on a slidable frame that moves over shelving, saving space and offering various viewing angles. A stool inconspicuously houses small stool frames inside it. The convertible furniture allows the living room to feel sparse or accomodate up to 14 people when seats are unfolded from walls and pulled out from their hiding places. Visitors can experience the walk-through model in all its hidden capacities as the interior is morphed throughout the day to accommodate to inhabitants needs.
Although planning, architecture and design take the spotlight, the exhibit also addresses important policy issues. The full-size model presents a good argument for policy makers to reconsider existing housing codes, especially concerning density controls, minimum room and unit size, the maximum legal number of unrelated adults that can occupy dwellings, and rear and side yards. Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York stated, “With this exhibition, the Museum of the City of New York and the Citizens Housing & Planning Council are giving New Yorkers a glimpse into the future of housing in our city. The exhibition clearly demonstrates why New York City needs to allow the development of new types of housing units.”
New Yorkers will have their first chance to experience micro-unit living with the realization of “My Micro NY,” the winner of the adAPT NYC competition. Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund HDC and nARCHITECTS have teamed up to carry out the project with an expected completion date of 2015. The structure will be the first multi-family housing in Manhattan to use modular construction and will be located at 335 E. 27th Street. Construction of the modular units will take indoors at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, providing local jobs and also safer, controlled working conditions. 40% of the units will be affordable and rent stabilized, with 20% reserved for low-income New Yorkers. Although the units are below current minimum unit size and density regulations, the codes will be temporarily waived on a pilot basis to see how things work out. If successful, the project will serve as inspiration and an important step towards creating housing designs that reflect 21st century lives and advances in technology.
Images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat