New York's first micro-apartment building to be completed in December


A modular residential tower designed by nArchitects that is meant to offer a solution to New York's affordable housing shortage is nearing completion (+ movie).

The building, named My Micro NY, is currently rising on a site in Manhattan's Kips Bay neighbourhood.

The firm has just released a two-minute video, created by filmmaker Antti Seppanen, that shows construction progress. The video is a trailer for a documentary that chronicles the 35,000-square-foot (3,250 square metres) project.

Construction of the micro units is underway in a factory warehouse

Organised by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and sponsored by the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the competition invited designers to propose micro dwellings that could serve as a new model for affordable housing, particularly for one- and two-person households.

Currently the median rental price for a one-bedroom Manhattan apartment is $3,400 (£2,200), according to a Bloomberg report.

The city is experiencing a boom in luxury housing projects, including a series of super-tall residential towers that are now under construction in Manhattan. Architect Steven Holl took issue with the towers in an Opinion piece for Dezeen, stating that "architecture with a sense of social purpose is becoming increasingly rare" in New York.

My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects

Rising nine stories, My Micro NY will contain 55 units ranging from 250 to 370 square feet (23 to 35 square metres). Completion is scheduled for December, with an opening to follow shortly after.

Work on the modules began in 2014. Composed of steel frames and concrete slabs, the modules were built in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an industrial site that is now home to creative agencies and workshops.

On-site construction began in March. The modular units are being stacked and bolted together, along with stairs, an elevator and other shared spaces. The building's facade will feature four different shades of grey brick, with varying textures.

"The project focuses on quality and livability through features that highlight the use of space, light and air," said nArchitects of the design.

My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects

Units will feature ceiling heights rising nearly 10 feet (three metres) and Juliet balconies. Each apartment will have a compact kitchen, a combined living and sleeping area, a bathroom, a closet and overhead storage space.

My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects

Shared amenities for tenants will include a gym, a small lounge, a roof terrace, bicycle storage and a garden.

"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," said the firm.

My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects
Image courtesy of Ledaean

The affordable units will range for $950 to $1,492 (£615 to £966), and market-rate units will start at $2,000 (£1,294). Monadnock Development is backing the project.

The adAPT NYC competition was a part of Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan, which aimed to produce additional, affordable housing choices for one- and two-person households – a growing demographic in the city.

My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects

"The city's housing codes have not kept up with its changing population, and currently do not allow apartments smaller than 400 square feet, nor an entire building of micro-units," said the firm.

The mayor's office waived some of its zoning regulation to enable My Micro NY to be constructed.

It will be the first micro-unit apartment building in New York and one of the first multi-unit Manhattan buildings featuring modular construction.

My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects

Other recent urban affordable housing projects include a prefabricated development for homeless people in London by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and an affordable housing development in Southern California by Kevin Daly Architects.

Rohan Silva, former senior policy advisor to UK prime minister David Cameron, said in a recent interview with Dezeen that creatives are leaving New York for Los Angeles due to sky-high prices and lack of suitable studio space – and the same could happen in London.

Recently, the organisation New London Architecture hosted a competition aimed at finding solutions for London's housing crisis. The competition drew 100 ideas, ranging from modular housing to the development of brownfield sites.

Images courtesy of Mir.

Project credits:

nArchitects team: Eric Bunge, Mimi Hoang (principals), Ammr Vandal (associate, project manager), Tony-Saba Shiber, Daniel Katebini-Stengel, Cheryl Baxter, Albert Figueras, Prathyusha Viddam, Gabrielle Marcoux, Amanda Morgan, Zach Cohen, Matthew Scarlett, Matthew Wilson, Alexis Payen nArchitects competition phase team: Eric Bunge, Mimi Hoang (principals); Ammr Vandal (associate, project architect), Daniel-Katebini Stengel, Christopher Grabow, Alex Tseng, Nancy Putnam
Client: Monadnock Development/NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development
Structural engineer: DeNardis Engineering LLC
MEP engineer: A Joselow, PC
Civil engineer and landscape: Langan Engineering
LEED consultant: Taitem Engineering, PC
Code consulting: JM Zoning
Consulting architect (competition phase): Willis DeLaCour
Marketing consultant: Corcoran Sunshine
Graphic design: Project Projects
Builders: Monadnock Construction, Capsys Corp (modular units)

My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects
Micro-unit diagram – click for larger image
My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects
Amenities diagram – click for larger image
My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects
Ground floor plan – click for larger image
My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects
Typical upper floor plan – click for larger image
My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects
Unit floor plans – click for larger image
  • I somehow expected more typical units. ALL eight units per floor are unique. Similar, yes, but not identical.

  • Doubtfuldodger

    Affordable housing in NYC? It’s wishful thinking and won’t happen. In six months these will hold a value that is out of affordable reach for the very people it was designed for – such is life when exposed to an unregulated market.

  • Remod

    Unregulated market? Seriously? New York is one of the most regulated markets in the country. It’s the “big city” concept that drives up living costs and intern drives out the lower and middle class out. High living costs comes as a by product of high density. Space becomes so limited that any minuscule piece of the pie becomes ridiculously expensive for the average folks.

    Name one “big city” in the world where housing costs are TRULY affordable for all. It does not exist. Couple that with designers moving in at a rapid pace with their ‘elite’ shops where the average cost of a sofa is $8k or chocolate bars at $15 because the cocoa beans are sailed from Madagascar and wallah, you have yourself an unobtainable city where the rich can splurge and everyone else has to hit the suburbs.

    But even funnier is that all these individuals, i.e. architects, artists, designers, who are creating these uber-luxury environments are the same ones who apparently are for income inequality for the poor.

    • So we should shut down Manhattan and Brooklyn and aim for suburbia as the texture of NYC?

      • Remod

        My point is that we as architects play the victim card when it comes to high costs of living in cities we design and play a huge role in developing. We challenge the status quo for everything other than the tired and old concept of “the dense city”.

        So, should we shut down Manhattan or Brooklyn? No of course not, but what we should do is either embrace the fact that we are the problem or just shut up and embrace the fact that we cater to an elite class we pretend to hate so much.

        • I’m not sure that architects or even developers are the problem. Or governments, etc. I suspect the correlation of density and cost is best understood as a due to the shared causality of desirability.

          In which case, perhaps you’re calling for making less desirable locations more attractive? I’m all for that, assuming the locations in question share some of the social and environmental benefits of cities, which certainly don’t require Manhattan-level densities!

      • Carl

        I agree with Remod – all strictly regulated cities are expensive to live and build in. It is precisely the cause for elevated costs. The more regulation the higher the cost of building/living.

  • Manuel

    What a casualty! In the video they only show the interior of the bigger one with more light. If you take a look at the floor plan it has two windows; the others have only one. Even that one looks dark and small. I don’t want to imagine what the other one will look like.

  • Manuel

    And it is not so optimised. With 360 square feet you can have separated bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room.

  • I really like this project. “Modular” has been used here for efficiency, but not as an excuse to design to boring templates. Extremely efficient floor arrangements and in-unit floor plans make these relatively large for apodments, which makes the kitchenette reasonable.

    And the public-private arrangement sounds great, at least from out here reading press releases. I share Doubtfuldodger’s concern about how prices will be kept down, though.

  • Ema

    This is like the drug that covers up the symptoms, but never cures the disease.

  • John Delaney

    “Micro units” do nothing for affordability and they harm the city. They are anti-urban. Why? Because they don’t attract long-term tenants. Long-term tenants are invested in their neighbourhoods and provide for their security and upkeep. These units are “stepping stones” for people who are seeking a short-term affordable stop-gap to a unit that is larger, more comfortable, and most likely in a better (different) neighbourhood. As a result, the neighbourhood around these micro-unit clusters likely won’t improve and may even degrade. Architects should stop patting themselves on the back for their collective ingenuity and realise these sorts of units do more harm than good.

  • Jojon

    They should separate toilet and showers like Japanese homes.

  • Mike Magill

    $3400 for 350 square foot? Is this a joke? As a lifetime NYC resident I can tell you that you can already do better than that, space wise, for cheaper if you open your eyes.

    This does nothing to solve the affordable housing problem in this city as your typical middle class family is still paying two to three thousand for much bigger spaces in the boroughs. All this does is make humans feel like a hamsters in a very small cages. Absolute FAIL!

  • Colonel Pancake

    This project is an utter waste of time and an insult to economic rationalism. Don’t let the populist political rhetoric fool you into thinking this is an actual solution in society’s best interest. There were thousands upon thousands of applicants for these units, which have taken years to develop and build [inefficiently] on the public’s dime. At the rate the public sector can develop “affordable” (more accurately: “sh*tty”) housing, the applicants will be dead for a hundred years by the time they can move into their new plastic shoe box in the sky.

    If you want to make housing affordable in New York, your only realistic option is ensuring that every neighborhood in NY is safe and has quality public schools, which might incentivise relocating to them. Your second option is eliminating rent-control, which drastically reduces the housing supply through disincentivising the efficiency of spatial occupation. Unfortunately, that’s not politically feasible.

    Without focus on the former realistic solution with all the available resources, everyone will simply fight over the existing housing suppply in areas where they won’t get mugged, which will continue to cause prices to soar.

    Vanity projects like this are an utter joke used by well-intending fools and political demagogues. Public housing has been so thoroughly discredited on account of its inefficiency and its harm from economists that it’s embarrassing to still have this conversation. For whatever reason, the last people on earth who believe in public housing are architects, naive youths, and people sleeping under bridges. Not exactly the company I’m eager to share viewpoints with.

  • AdvancedVisualisation

    I really love the variations in the floor plan, it gives people choice even with a limited budget. It’s important for people to feel like individuals rather than just a number out of a spreadsheet.