“Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers”

Museum of the City of New York , East Harlem Monday April 1 2013 10:00 - 18:00
Photograph courtesy Museum of the City of New York

At 325 square feet, the micro-unit is not legal in most of New York City—there’s a 400-square-foot minimum for living spaces, a zoning code that some tenants and landlords manage to circumvent. “If we could change those rules, you could have a safer, more legal housing stock,” says Albrecht. Apartments that are better suited to the increasingly solo-dwelling NYC population would reduce the need for informal modifications, such as makeshift Sheetrock walls that create extra bedrooms. The model—furnished with transformable furniture and turf-maximizing architectural devices—shows how this space could be livable for one person or a very low-clutter couple.

Photograph: John Halpern

The studio is separated into three areas: bathroom, kitchen and living room (which converts into sleeping and dining quarters). Clever tricks and techniques, such as varying the lighting and ceiling heights, are used to differentiate among household zones.

Photograph: John Halpern

The model kitchen’s vaulting is slightly lower than that of the living room, and a wall protrudes between them to thoughtfully shield the bathroom from view.

Photograph: John Halpern

Almost all the pad’s furnishings, which are designed by Clei and distributed by Resource Furniture, is built-in and multifunctional. The queen-sized bed swings down from the wall over the sofa, and that same unit contains storage underneath the couch.

Photograph: John Halpern

A hidden closet maximizes space by keeping hanging clothes up high. When you need to reach it, a lever brings the rack down to your level.

Photograph: John Halpern

Across from the adaptable sofa-bed–closet, a TV hangs from a wall covered in brick-patterned wallpaper; to its left, an ottoman–coffee table houses four stools.

Photograph: John Halpern

The dining room table, which slides under the kitchen counter when not in use, can seat up to four people, so even dinner parties are possible in this diminutive domicile.

Photograph: John Halpern

A home office is hidden at the far end of the living space. To access it, you hinge down the sloped desk from the wall, like an old-school secretary; it reveals a writing surface that also has shelves and drawers. A doorway leads to a teeny terrace approximately 4' x 12', which provides both natural light and extra space.

Photograph: John Halpern

Considering the stringent space limitations the architects had to contend with, it’s surprising to see a full tub in this minimalist pied-à-terre; a shower stall would have been more modest in size. “We felt the unit itself is small, but let’s not skimp on the bathroom,” says Albrecht. The unit’s L shape enables micro-unit residents to soak in a traditionally sized bath. “These little luxuries are good in such a small space.”

Gotham is predicted to gain 1 million new residents by 2030, and the proportion of one- and two-person households is rising. See the ways in which New York housing might accommodate these changing demographics in an exhibit copresented by the Citizens Housing and Planning Council and MCNY. On display are models, videos and photographs, along with a full-scale, 325-square-foot micro-unit built right into the gallery, designed by Pierluigi Colombo (of Italian design firm Clei) and Amie Gross Architects. Plus, examine the plans for a building of modular micro-units that the Bloomberg administration has approved for construction on E 27th St.
Venue name: Museum of the City of New York
Address: 1220 Fifth Ave
New York

Cross street: between 103rd and 104th Sts
Opening hours: Daily 10am–6pm
Transport: Subway: 6 to 103rd St
Price: Suggested donation $10, seniors and students $6, children 12 and under free