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Museum of the City of New York unveils Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers
Taylor Jones, a museum intern, shows a 325-square-foot apartment at the Museum of the City of New York on August 16, 2013 in New York City. The exhibit, called "Making Room", was inspired by a contest to design micro-apartments to help ease the affordable housing shortage. Two interns a night get an opportunity to stay in the apartment, designed by Resource Furniture and located inside the museum and then show it to visitors the next day. A new report by the office of Brooklyn Democrat and housing expert Brad Lander, a City Councilman, found that less than 2 percent of all apartments developed in the city since 2005 were deemed affordable housing. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched "Inclusionary Housing Program" eight years ago in an attempt to get developers to to build larger and taller as long as they also set aside a portion of their apartments for low- to middle-income tenants. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of the City of New York has opened Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers, organized in conjunction with Citizens Housing & Planning Council (CHPC). The exhibition offers insights into how New York City’s changing social, economic, and cultural lives, especially the rise of single adults, are re-shaping urban households, and how design can help re-shape the city’s housing stock for New Yorkers at all phases of their lives.

The exhibition presents an array of innovative architectural solutions that could better accommodate the city’s emerging housing needs. Making Room features a full-scale, “micro-apartment,” fully furnished with transformable furniture, along with other proposals to provide new housing options for a 21st century population – including shared housing for single adults and modified homes for extended families – as well as a look at real-life examples pioneered in other cities around the world as they face growing populations and changing family structures and new environmental realities.

Making Room also includes several innovative designs submitted to New York City’s adAPT competition. In July 2012, the City issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for developer/architect teams to design a building of micro-units for small households, meaning one- to two-people. The winning submission will be developed on a site on East 27th Street in Manhattan, and will test this new housing model in the New York Ci3ety marketplace.

“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,” said Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York. “The exhibition clearly demonstrates why New York City needs to allow the development of new types of housing units.”

“This exhibition will give the public a chance to see how our talented designers believe housing can be reshaped to better meet the needs of our 21st century New York City,” said CHPC Executive Director, Jerilyn Perine. “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. And most exciting is the chance to experience an actual apartment built with minimum space and environmental impact that is beautifully designed and creates a wonderful place to live.”

New York City Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Matthew M. Wambua said, “We believe adAPT NYC is a fantastic opportunity to create a model of housing that could be replicated across neighborhoods in New York to meet the City’s evolving needs and expand the housing stock. The Making Room exhibit highlights these real housing models and gives us the opportunity to expand our thinking even further. We are constantly looking for ingenious, sustainable, replicable and practical housing ideas. Thanks to CHPC and MCNY for presenting comprehensive, innovative designs and ideas that could shift the paradigm and respond to the needs of real New Yorkers.”

New York City Department of Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden said, “The adAPT pilot program and the Making Room exhibit exemplify a commitment to marry innovation in design and zoning in order to broaden housing choices for our growing population. Housing advocates, architects and the City have joined forced to develop new models to enable us to meet the changing housing needs of New Yorkers and some of their creative ideas are on display at MCNY.”

The Making Room exhibition originated with the launch of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC report that projected an increase of one million residents by 2030. CHPC began to examine how our current population is being accommodated and revealed that New York’s residential stock and related codes no longer match the needs of its changing population. Today, almost half of the New York City population is single, a shift that is radically reshaping housing need. Already a third of all households are a single person living alone and the rest of the single population are staying with family for longer or sharing with unrelated adults in a variety of informal, and often illegal and unsafe, arrangements. The reality is that only 18 percent of the city’s housing is occupied by a nuclear family, defined as two parents and children under 25.

Meanwhile, small apartments (less than 400 square feet) are prohibited in many areas of the city, and it remains illegal for more than three unrelated adults living together. As a result, single-parent families, immigrants, the elderly, and recent graduates, among other groups, struggle to adapt themselves to housing designed for a previous generation.

Part of the reason for the mismatch between how New Yorkers live now and the legal housing options available to them is the accretion of housing laws and codes developed in the 20th century. These laws and codes were championed by housing reformers responding to pressing conditions of their era, but they have not kept up with the technological, demographic, environmental or cultural trends in urban residential living. This exhibition shows the possibilities if there were some changes to the restrictive barriers in current housing laws and codes, including density controls, minimum room and unit sizes, adults who share a dwelling, parking regulations, and rear and side yards. If such changes should take place, the consequences might include greater housing choices, more affordability, and a greener city.

A highlight of the exhibition is the full-scale micro-apartment, giving visitors the ability to step into – and walk through – an innovative solution that could help New York accommodate the city’s booming single population. The actualized micro-unit, ingeniously designed and furnished by Clei s.r.l. and Resource Furniture and with architecture by Amie Gross Architects, changes through the course of the day during special demonstrations at the Museum, morphing to the occupant’s needs. With transformable furniture, such as tables, bed systems and seating, space is utilized efficiently and creatively.

Examples of innovative housing types that are being built across the country and globe, including San Diego, Montreal, Seattle, and Tokyo, are also detailed in the main exhibition space. Japan has long been recognized as a leader in creating small, well-designed living spaces and the exhibition showcases several compact homes recently built in Tokyo.

The exhibition also highlights the work of five design teams that came out of a challenge CHPC launched in partnership with the Architectural League of New York in 2011. The teams’ proposals explore a multitude of new housing types, including mini-studios for single adults, new shared housing options, and accessory units for extended families.

Housing designs that are featured in plans, drawings, videos and models are:
• A 232-square-foot micro-loft designed by a team led by Peter Gluck

• Flexible single and shared housing on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, designed by a team led by Jonathan Kirschenfeld

• A three-unit structure on a typical New York City 25-by-100 lot transformed into shared housing for multiple single adults by Ted Smith, of Smith and Others.

• A design by Stan Allen and Rafi Segal transforming a 1960s midtown Manhattan office tower into residential apartments and shared facilities

• Two projects by Deborah Gans: the conversion of a Brooklyn industrial and manufacturing building into a flexible space, and the expansion of a single-family home in Ravenswood, Queens with a variety of new accessory dwelling units.

In addition to featuring the design proposals from the CHPC challenge, the exhibit presents a number of project proposals submitted to the City’s adAPT competition. The video presentation features renderings of both building and unit proposals for the East 27th Street site, including the winning design, which was announced the day before the exhibition opened on January 23, 2013.

Finally, the exhibition includes various graphical representations and maps that depict the recent changes in the city’s demographics and show the repercussions of restricting the developing of housing options that suit the public’s social and financial needs.

Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers is organized by Donald Albrecht, Curator of Architecture and Design, and Andrea Renner, Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow at the Museum. Jerilyn Perine and Sarah Watson, of Citizens Housing & Planning Council, provided the primary research content underlying this exhibition. New York City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden and New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Matt Wambua are the show’s honorary co-chairs. Azby Brown, the Founder and Director of the Future Design Institute in Tokyo, partnered with Mr. Albrecht and Ms. Renner to select examples of Japanese housing design. Exhibition design by Pure + Applied.

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