New York's "micro-units" housing
competition winners announced


News: plans for an apartment block of stackable modules have won a design competition for "micro-units" to help solve the shortage of small homes in Manhattan (+ slideshow).


New York mayor Michael Bloomberg named American studio nArchitects as the winner of the adAPT NYC competition, which called for designs made up of only one- and two-person homes for a pilot project on a site in Kips Bay.

Zoning regulations will be waived to allow construction of the apartment block. "The growth rate for one- and two-person households greatly exceeds that of households with three or more people, and addressing that housing challenge requires us to think creatively and beyond our current regulations," said Bloomberg.


nArchitects teamed up with Monadnock Development LLC and the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation to design My Micro NY, a building of 55 apartments with 40 percent at affordable rents.

Modules will be hoisted into place over a period of just two weeks and the exterior of the building will be clad in graduated shades of brickwork.


Each residence will feature a compact kitchen with a cooker, fridge, pull-out pantry and space for microwave, plus a combined living and sleeping area and a bathroom. Storage areas are also included and comprise a loft and closet.

As well as apartments, the building will contain a laundry room, bicycle storage, a gym and a series of communal lounge and multi-purpose areas. A roof terrace on the eighth floor will provide space for outdoor events and activities.


"We're thrilled at the chance of designing a housing prototype that will give New Yorkers in small spaces a sense of living in a larger social fabric" said nArchitects' principal Eric Bunge.

Construction is expected to begin at the end of 2013 and more schemes will be initiated in the future, as part of the mayor's bid to provide 165,000 new homes for New Yorkers by 2014.


Above: apartment concept - click above for larger image

The adAPT NYC competition was launched in July 2012 and San Francisco city chiefs have also since voted to allow the development of "micro-apartments".

Kent Larson, director of the Changing Places Group at MIT Media Lab, doesn't think that micro-apartments are the answer to the housing crisis in US cities. "The problem is young people don't really like these tiny little apartments with a pull-out sofa," he told Dezeen last month.


Above: site plan - click above for larger image

See more stories about housing on Dezeen, including proposals for pop-up housing in garages.

Here's a project description from the architects:

nArchitects' design for My Micro NY, in collaboration with Monadnock Development and the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, is the winning proposal in the adAPT NYC competition sponsored by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD). Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and HPD Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua announced today that the My Micro NY development team has been chosen through a competitive Request for Proposals, which received the largest response to date for an HPD housing project.

The adAPT NYC competition was created as part of Mayor Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan to introduce additional choices within New York City's housing market to accommodate the city's growing population of one- and two-person households. The City's housing codes have not kept up with its changing population, and currently do not allow an entire building of micro-units. Mayor Bloomberg will waive certain zoning regulations at the Kips Bay site to allow the My Micro NY pilot project to be developed.

nArchitects’ ambitious proposal creates 55 new micro-units utilizing modular building construction that could be replicable in future developments. The project focuses on quality and livability through features that highlight the use of space, light, and air, such as 9'-10" floor-to-ceiling heights and juliet balconies. By incorporating setbacks as a governing design logic, My Micro NY could in principle be adapted to many sites, at a range of heights and floor area ratios, and at nearly any location in a block. The 250 to 370 square-foot micro-units achieve affordability for low- and middle-income households without any direct City subsidy or financing, in part through its use of modular design to significantly shorten project schedule and save on financing and conventional construction costs. It is expected that the project will complete the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure in the fall with construction beginning at the end of 2013.

  • brononamous

    This is exactly what London needs.

    • Does this provide an example for London, or should our ability to build up lessen the tendency towards reducing room sizes?

  • Colonel Pancake

    This won’t do much of anything to help the housing problem. The only way to create enough of these smaller units to meet demand is to loosen the planning regulations that prevent them from being offered in other parts of the city in the first place. You can’t just selectively choose one site as a test guinea and believe you’re not preventing adequate conversions somewhere else, as conversions of existing prototypes are far more efficient ways to get more people in more units.

    The archaic planning guidelines themselves are leftover from the times when fire concerns necessitated limiting the amount of people that could live in a building (and potentially die in case of a fire).

    Having a single competition for one building is a preposterously slow and inefficient way to get these units to market in time and the people that get shafted most by this are the young people that think “oh, this is so cool.”

    • John

      I agree with everything you have stated. The developers and the statutory planners are not going to release a million of these apartments in an efficient manner because it will affect their bottom line. They need them to be desirable so young people will think they are cool, so that the 40% that are paying the lower rents are in turn subsidised by the 60% paying the market value.

  • Taffinik

    What happens to the guy guiding the apartment into place, once it's laid?

  • jeremy

    “The problem is young people don’t really like these tiny little apartments with a pull-out sofa,” but I don’t see the bed. Where is it hidden if it’s not a pull-out sofa?

  • plfhoen

    A good idea, although I can’t help thinking about one of the most revolutionary architecture projects of the 1970s:

  • noclip

    "Apartment for rent, 200 square feet, $7000/mo, no pets"

  • owen

    Does that guy standing in the construction shot have safety gear on?

  • monocosmico

    Amazing renderings!

  • Lisa Bryant

    I rent to students. I tried micro units and they are hard to move. These units are too small! They should be 350-500sf. That’s humane and marketable.