Dezeen Magazine

Micro apartments could help cities retain their diversity says Ian Schrager

The booming market for luxury apartments in New York "is an issue" that could damage the city, according to hotelier and real-estate developer Ian Schrager – and micro apartments could be the solution.

Speaking to Dezeen, Schrager said that the influx of rich people into New York and other cities threatened their diversity.

"I do think that not having diversity in cities is a bad thing," he said. "And it just being rich people is not a good thing."

He added: "I think an area gentrifying and having some rich people is fine, as long as the area has diversity. It is a diversity that brings the energy, and brings the greatness to a city. I think that's an issue."

Ian Schrager
Ian Schrager told Dezeen that micro apartments are "potentially a great solution" to declining diversity in cities

Schrager, one of the most influential living hoteliers and developers, spoke amid concern that the super-rich are pricing everyone else out of Manhattan.

In a column for Dezeen last year, architect Stephen Holl wrote that Manhattan's "astonishingly unequal income has begun to take architectural form" while critic Aaron Betsky wrote that Manhattan is becoming somewhere "there is no place for poor people, for production, or even for conflict".

There have even been protests on the streets of New York against the rash of supertall residential buildings going up in the city.

Manhattan skyline, New York
Architect Steven Holl and critic Aaron Betsky both expressed concern about Manhattan's boom in expensive condo towers

Schrager, who during his career has launched game-changing nightclubs, hotels and more recently condo buildings, said that a new generation of "micro apartment" developments could help cities retain their mix.

New York's first micro apartment building, called My Micro NY, has recently been completed. It contains 55 units of between 250 and 370 square feet (23 and 35 square metres).

My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects
Completed earlier this year, My Micro NY by nArchitects is New York's first micro-apartment building

The building, at Kips Bay in Manhattan, was the result of a competition initiated by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who saw micro apartments as a way of alleviating the shortage of affordable housing in the city.

"People from all over the world want to live in New York City, and we must develop a new, scalable housing model that is safe, affordable and innovative to meet their needs," Bloomberg said when the Kips Bay competition was launched in 2012.

In the same year, San Francisco city chiefs voted to allow the construction of apartments as small as 20 square metres to help alleviate the affordable housing shortage.

My Micro NY by nArchitects
The 55 apartments in My Micro NY range from 23 to 34 square metres with built-in furniture to turn the living rooms into bedrooms

Further similar developments are now being built in New York and other cities.

"You know I think these micro apartments they are being built are potentially a great solution," Schrager said. "They're doing them in San Francisco. I think there's a design problem to make these places efficient. And I think that's a very exciting prospect."

San Francisco plans micro apartments
San Francisco city chiefs voted to allow the development of apartments as small as 20 square metres to tackle the city's housing shortage

Schrager made the comments in an interview with Dezeen, in which he discussed his career and his collaborations with leading architects and designers including Arata Isozaki, Philippe Starck and Herzog & de Meuron. Key projects by Schrager include the Studio 54 and Palladium nightclubs and hotels including Morgans – the first ever "boutique" hotel – the Royalton and the Delano.

Schrager said he missed the old New York of the Studio 54 era but added: "I think we all do [miss the past]. I think my parents did. You know I remember driving around with my parents with them saying that it used to be better. F Scott Fitzgerald said it used to be better. People always say that."