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Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers

Published on
March 15

In the age when 3D printers and other sorts of fabrication methods are on our minds, the concept of a prefab apartment is not so farfetched in our mass consumer society. This is just one of the design concepts presented at “Making Room” an exhibition on new housing initiatives for New Yorkers currently being shown at the Museum of the City of New York until Sept 2013. The Citizens Planning & Housing Council has partnered with the museum to produce “Making Room,” which zones in on designs that accommodate for the high percentage of singles in the city, legal shared housing for unrelated adults, and additions which make single-family homes more flexible.

As you approach the exhibit, you are first met by a room decorated by infographics illustrating the demographics of the inhabitants of New York City. The stats are organized around the number of singles, number of unrelated persons living together, single parents, and nuclear families. Manhattan boasts around 33% of singles which demonstrates a shifting demographic of people living alone in urban areas, an issue highlighted in this NYTimes article.

The exhibit features the winner of the adAPT competition initiated by Mayor Bloomberg, designed by nARCHITECT, which involves a series of prefabricated units ranging from 250-370 sq feet that are fitted together modularly on site. The apartments include a kitchen, bath, living room, and sleeping area.

A 325 sq foot model apartment sits in the middle of the gallery space and demonstrates how all these amenities can be included in such a small space. The key to the design is maximizing space through multifunctional furniture, with stools doubling as cupboards 

and a couch which transforms into a Murphy bed. Yet the apartments that are set to open in 2015 do not come with the specialized array of ultra-modern furniture, which beckons the question of how effective the design is without the interior furnishings.

The highlight of the show is the beautiful models which illustrate each of the design proposals. Most of them are rendered in a light wood, intricately lasercut and put together to show the density of spaces contained in each unit. A theme around these kinds of housing proposals is to create density of residences, but also to create a sense of community through them through the sharing of amenities and the offering of community spaces within each unit.

Outside of the innovations in housing popping up in the United States, the exhibit also shows designs from outside of the country, including one of my favorites: the Domestic Transformer. I really recommend watching this video of the house done by award-winning architect, gary Chang, who designed a 344 sq ft apartment to be able to turn into 24 different rooms.

For a sneak peek at the housing future of the city head on down to the exhibit! The Museum of the City of New York is located at 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street and is just a short ride away on the M4. Admission is free for students with valid CUID.