Micro-apartments are having a moment, and not just as conceptual exercises. In Boston, San Francisco, and other metropolises these tiny units—around 300 square feet—are becoming a reality. A new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York explores the changing demographic, social, and economic factors that could make micro-living viable and desirable in New York City. Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers runs through September 15. The exhibition includes micro-unit schemes, a full-size model unit, and proposals from New York City’s adAPT competition, which called on developer-architect teams to design a building of micro-units. Mayor Michael Bloomberg will waive zoning regulations at an East 27th Street site so the winning design can be built there. RECORD spoke with Donald Albrecht, the museum’s curator of architecture and design, who organized the show with curatorial fellow Andrea Renner.
Why did the museum decide to mount this exhibition?
In 2011, Citizens Housing & Planning Council [CHPC] of New York did a design charrette with the Architectural League of New York. They went to five teams and asked them to come up with new schemes for housing in New York City based on the knowledge that the population was going to grow by 1 million by 2030 and that almost half of the city is single. CHPC asked if we would want to work on an exhibition. We also look at projects from other cities across the U.S., Asia, and Canada. There are really beautiful new models and films of the projects that reflect the architects’ further thinking about the idea. The most fantastic part is that there is a full-scale, 325-square-foot micro-unit in the museum [built and designed by Clei, Resource Furniture, and Amie Gross Architects]. We’re trying to show that you can live comfortably in a smaller space.
Some of the criticism of micro-units is that they’re not very affordable for the type of person they’re meant to attract—young, single, underpaid. Does the exhibition address any of the criticisms of the trend?