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Museum of the City of New York Extends Popular Micro-Unit Exhibition, Launches Contest to Win $1,000 Transformable Furniture Piece
The Museum of the City of New York is extending its popular exhibition, Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers – complete with a fully built “micro-unit” – to September 15th due to popular demand.
Organized in conjunction with Citizens Housing & Planning Council (CHPC), Making Room was due to close its doors Labor Day weekend. But in August, the exhibition continued to draw throngs of visitors from the region, country and around the globe.
Before Terri Lee could start a cooking demonstration at the Museum of the City of New York last week, she had to demonstrate a few other things.
Her audience was clustered, confused expressions on their faces, in one end of the 325 s/f model apartment in the museum’s third-floor gallery. Some people were standing in the kitchen area itself, inches from Lee’s elbows. In a matter of minutes, however, folding chairs were produced from a rack by the entryway, and a small ottoman unfolded to produce five low stools.
The model apartment is part of MCNY’s “Making Room, an exhibit dedicated to the design of small apartments to accommodate the city’s growing single population.
The exhibit was first suggested by the Citizen’s Housing & Planning Council and not intentionally timed to coincide with the Bloomberg administration’s recent foray into allowing apartments smaller than the current minimum of 400 s/f, according to the exhibit’s curator, Donald Albrecht.
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.
“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.”
Single people are taking over U.S. cities. The numbers are so staggering that it’s hard to understand why housing policy has been so slow to react. In New York City, a third of all households are single people living alone. San Francisco beats New York at 38 percent, and Washington, D.C., Seattle and Denver top the charts for larger cities, with over 40 percent of their homes occupied by a lone resident. But even in smaller cities like Atlanta, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, single people make up close to half of their households.
One reason it is difficult for policy makers, and the market, to digest these astounding numbers is our confused definition of household. Since the 1950 census, “household” has been synonymous with “family.” Data splits households into family and nonfamily categories, relegating single people and their housing need to an oddity. This idea of household equaling family also keeps our housing supply frozen in the 1950s and even permeates our housing vocabulary, as in “multifamily buildings” and “single-family homes.”
To address these challenges, the Citizens Housing & Planning Council created a more realistic, demandbased analysis of how our population really lives. We found that a quarter of all New York City homes and apartments are being shared in some way. Adult children are staying in the family home for longer. Older single relatives are moving in with family members. Strangers are banding together to find housing through Craigslist, creating unnaturally high household incomes, which distorts the housing market by pushing up rental prices.
Finding just the right place to live is a persistent problem for New Yorkers, and it’s likely to get worse. The city predicts that in the next 20 years, the population will reach 9 million people. Even today, the city’s 1.8 million one- and two-person households face a specific problem: there are only one million studios and one-bedroom apartments available.
To help visualize what life in 325 square feet would look like, the Museum of the City of New York has been hosting an exhibition of a sample unit throughout the summer. The exhibit, which runs through Sept. 2, is now hosting a string of 24-hour residents from different walks of life in the space, which is equipped with a queen-sized bed, flat-screen TV, desk, couch, and kitchen table. Residents so far have included two bloggers, two museum interns, and a couple who hosted a dinner party for 8.
For the organization behind the museum exhibit, Citizens Housing Planning Council (CHPC), solutions like micro-apartments for New York City are part of its core mission. The independent, non-profit research organization’s Making Room Initiative is honed in on diversifying New York City’s housing stock and getting past the behemoth housing and zoning laws that they feel limit the possibilities.
“Making Room is more about how our physical space should evolve,” said Sarah Watson, deputy director of CHPC, who added that New York City had the first housing policies in the country. That history brings with it a litany of laws and codes that have been layered over the years, instead of reformed, updated, or removed completely to make room for new policies.
In New York, we’ve become accustomed to living in tight quarters — jammed packed living spaces with hardly enough room to breathe, let-alone live.
But at the Museum of the City of New York, there seems to be a solution.
The exhibit showcases how two people could live in an itty-bitty-spot known as a micro-apartment and still find a way to live comfortably.
Many New Yorkers live in small apartments. Most of them don’t camp out in a micro-unit at a museum to demonstrate the virtues of small-space living. That’s what Challie Stillman and Lina Franco are doing.
The apartment is part of an exhibit that runs through Sept. 2 called “Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers.”
The apartment features space-saving furniture and under-the-counter appliances. The couple invited six friends for dinner their first night. They had food delivered.
Even though people pay big to live in this city, most New Yorkers live small, and some live really small.
At the Museum of the City of New York’s special micro-apartment exhibition, there will be a series of seminars that will help people who live in a box learn to think outside of one.
“We’re standing in a 325-square-foot micro-unit,” says Donald Albrecht, a curator with MCNY. “It is 75 square feet smaller than what’s currently allowed in New York City, and over the next few weeks, we’re going to be doing a series of demonstrations that actually show how you can live in such a space.”
From now through Labor Day, visitors can experience the space and gain tips from experts on how to use a small space efficiently.
Some New Yorkers may soon be living in apartments roughly half the size of a city subway car. So the Museum of the City of New York decided to install one and have some New Yorkers try them out.
Over a four-day period this week, five locals are taking turns living in the micro-unit apartment that the museum set up back in January. That month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had announced that the city’s contest to find a micro-unit design of about 250 to 400 square feet had found a winner: Actors Fund Housing Development Corp, and nARCHITECTS will build the city’s first 55-unit micro-apartment building in Kip’s Bay.
With the city set to begin its micro-unit building next year – in which 55 apartments will range from 250 square feet to 370 square feet – the Museum of the City of New York is showing exactly what it’s is like to live in such a cramped space.
Starting on Friday, five people will take turns living in a fully functional 350-square-foot apartment the museum has built as a part of its “Making Room: Models for Housing New Yorkers” exhibit.
At noon yesterday, we moved into the 325-square-foot micro-apartment on the third floor of the Museum of the City of New York. The apartment is part of an exhibition, “Making Room,” focused on demographic change and housing alternatives. We stayed overnight, avoided being haunted by the ghosts of the museum’s costume collection, and met a few small-living celebrities, architects, and Curbed readers who stopped by to evaluate the small space. Our verdict: pretty livable!
The “Making Room” exhibit closes September 2, and after that, the micro-unit is looking for a new home, according to Sarah Watson of CHPC, who visited us earlier this morning. Watson thinks an office building lobby might be a good place for the unit to live—any landlords interested?
9:30 a.m.: The morning of our 24-hour stay in the micro-unit at the Museum of the City of New York (read about yesterday afternoon and the night shift) dawned with a visit from Sarah Watson, deputy director of Citizens Housing Planning Council. The non-profit’s research inspired the museum’s “Making Room” exhibit, and the organization focuses on the fact that there are “no legal safe options for a single person” in New York City and that policy changes would be needed to allow a wider variety of housing types to be built. The lack of options has both personal and economic consequences: single people entering the NYC housing market, at any age, have nowhere to go, and the market prices of studios are artificially high because the supply doesn’t match the demand.