The era of the McMansions is drawing to a close and people are flocking to urban centers, seeking the economy, convenience, and green living that only a city can offer. But many of us still want the ease and luxury of all that space we’re leaving in the suburbs. Enter: CityHome, a new microapartment invented by a team at the MIT Media Lab that offers transformer technology and home-scale enchantment. CityHome is an incredibly efficient and inexpensive fifteen-by-fifteen-foot space that automatically transforms to accommodate everything you might need to do in your personal space: study, exercise, lounge, entertain, eat, and sleep. All without compromise.
You program and control the CityHome with a wall-mounted device that looks like one of our most everyday of objects—a clock with concentric circles. Each activity is represented on the clock by an arc, and by sliding the arcs around, you create a routine for your home and yourself.
In the morning, your bed lifts away into the ceiling, to provide a clear and open floor space for exercise. Then, as you shower, the kitchen wall opens and an island swings down from its nest in the wall, ready for your breakfast prep. After eating, the desk descends from ceiling and the blinds on the window are lowered to provide better lighting to collaborate on a document and dial-in to a video conference with co-workers in India. Once you leave the apartment, the apartment cleans itself and then resets the furniture nesting into the walls and the ceiling. In the evening, when it senses your return with a couple of friends in tow, the furniture sets itself into lounge mode: chairs rise from the floor in the corners of the room, pinspot lights illuminate a little cocktail table and bar that rises out of the floor, and music begins. In movie mode, the entire wall fills with high-def projection and pillows and seating for 4-5 people appear against the opposite wall. It’s city living at its finest and most transformative.
CityHome is an ongoing project at the Media Lab, where I participated in a semester-long charrette (an intense, collaborative process of design development) that focused on the housing challenges in the city of Shanghai. Microhomes, like CityHome, are a much needed solution to combat the swift urbanization happening all over the world. Enchantment of these small spaces plays a key role in making them useful and flexible enough to satisfy our every day needs, as any home should.
To inform our design, the CityHome team conducted a survey to learn more about how often we move between activities in our homes. We found that houses tend to support six primary modes of activity, in addition to a bathroom. If a house could be made to automatically toggle between modes, it could be made at least six times smaller.
Our insight was that people aren’t interested in space for the sake of space. Generally, people seek environments that will help them fulfill one or more of the fundamental human desires: to make them feel safe, to help them live a long and healthy life, to nurture their need for creative expression. CityHome, with its transformative powers, satisfies those needs and more.