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nARCHITECTS Wins NYC Micro-Unit Competition

By William Hanley and Laura Mirviss
January 22, 2013
Image courtesy adAPT NYC
nARCHITECTS's winning design for a micro-unit apartment building in Manhattan's Kips Bay neighborhood.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today that a team that includes local firm nARCHITECTS has won a competition to design a micro-unit apartment building for a publicly owned lot in Manhattan. The city launched the competition in July to spur the development of small residential spaces tailored to the financial needs of young professionals. "Three quarters of Manhattan is one- or two-person households," said the Mayor at a press conference this morning. "But we just don't have enough apartments that are the appropriate size for them."

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Monadnock Development and the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation worked with nARCHITECTS on the proposal, titled My Micro NY, which calls for a 10-story building with 55 rental units that range from 250 to 370 square feet. Squeezing in such tiny apartments required waiving size and density requirements under the city's zoning code. "If the pilot is as successful as we think it will be, it will help make the case for regulatory changes to meet the housing demands of the 21st century," said Bloomberg. The $15-million project is slated to break ground this year and be completed in 2015.

The design by nARCHITECTS (former Design Vanguard winners) will be the first multi-unit building in Manhattan to be built with modular construction. The architects divided each of the units—slated to be fabricated in Brooklyn by Capsys—into a kitchen, bathroom, and storage area as well as a more open-planned living and sleeping space. The design calls for 18 percent of the building's square footage to house shared amenities, including lounges, a roof garden, and a glass-enclosed, ground-floor event space. According to the city, 40 percent of the apartments will be designated "affordable" relative to the market with rent prices ranging from $940 to $1,800 per month.

The winning proposal and four runners up will be on view in the exhibition Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers, which opens tomorrow at the Museum of the City of New York (read an interview with co-curator Donald Albrecht). The city held this morning's press conference at the museum, where Mayor Bloomberg expressed his commitment to the micro-unit concept but stressed that the city-driven project is designed to open doors for private developers. "We had to think outside the box and zoning regulations," he said. "By tweaking those limits, we can pave the way for many more studio and one- bedroom apartments without government subsidies."

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