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Ever-Changing Apartments of the Future Will Do Everything

Move over, McMansions. In the not-so-distant future, your studio apartment will also be your gym, your massive dining room, your home office, a yoga studio, house a guest room and function as pretty much any other kind of space you could imagine...

by Kerri Connolly
Oct 16 2012, 6:15pm

Move over, McMansions. In the not-so-distant future, your studio apartment will also be your gym, your massive dining room, your home office, a yoga studio, house a guest room and function as pretty much any other kind of space you could imagine.

At least, that is the idea behind CityHome, where malleability guides both form and function.

CityHome is a project out of the quirky-cool MIT Media Lab, and is run by the architect/planner Kent Larson. Larson oversees the Changing Places research group at the Media Lab. If he sounds familiar, it might be because he's also the guy behind Hiriko, the tiny-adorable electric-powered folding car that makes the SmartCar look like a Grand Cherokee.

While Hiriko is one solution Larson's Changing Places group devised to the problem of personal mobility in an ever-densifying urban grid, further stressed by steadily increasing transportation demands in finite space, its sister project, CityHome, presents an answer to the limits of real estate.

In future cities, building will be stacked with super space-efficient apartments. This and the above photo via Youtube

At present, more than seven billion people call our planet home, and if population growth continues as predicted, there could be as many as nine billion people by 2050. Almost all — a full 90% — of that growth is set to take place in urban areas around the globe. Think mega mega cities.

So, Larson and his team at MIT set about to answer the not-so-simple question of how to house massive numbers of people. And, what's more, how to do it with a relatively low carbon footprint. Enter CityHome.

As Larson explained in the above TED Talk, the concept is simple: an apartment which might otherwise be lacking in size is made "bigger" through the versatility of the interior spaces. The CityHome prototype allows the user to transform 840 square feet into whatever the user wants it to be. And 840 sq feet can become a lot of different things. By shifting a transformable wall, a studio can become a dining room and a spare bedroom. Or, an open kitchen with a living room; a gym and office space; or just a large, open area for entertaining guests.

The iterations are numerous, and capable of accommodating just about anyone's lifestyle. Just about everything about the layout and design would be customizable, tailored to the users unique personal taste and needs. Everything from lighting and appliances, finishes and ventilation systems would be entirely up to the individual. Even furniture could be integrated into the architecture of the unit to get the maximum use out of the space.

Pre-fab? No. Modular, yes. In the concept design of CityHome, units are stacked and arranged around one another, much as apartments or condos.

In the last few centuries, more people than ever before became residents of cities. Urban communities took the place of towns and villages. High-rise apartments replaced the single-family homes and estates, while eight-lane highways paved over the parkways and country lanes. In America, the post-war development of cities (and their suburbs) happened on a scale that had never been seen, and could scarcely have been imagined. Auto-centric designers like Robert Moses in New York and Lloyd Aldrich in Los Angeles shaped cities where movement facilitated the medium rather than motion of people through a shared space. Theirs was the model that many other nations sought to recreate in the booming years at the close of the 20th and outset of the 21st century.

Larson argues that, as the creators of this urban model, so furiously replicated in parts of the developing world and especially in China, we have a responsibility to respond to, to correct, even, the spatial and energy-related problems cities like these present. CityHome, he thinks, is one part of a solution.

Though costs haven't been presented yet, production on a prototype CityHome will begin in 2013. And really, who couldn't use an office space/yoga studio of their very own?

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