THE FUTURE OF NEW YORK CITY’S URBAN LANDSCAPE – AN EXERCISE.
A VISIT TO THE MINI LIVING URBAN CABIN @A/D/O.
New York City is notoriously intimidating. I’m a native New Yorker – but when I moved back to the big city after spending four years at college in Baltimore, I found it difficult to acclimate to the overwhelming yet simultaneously extraordinary atmosphere. I sought out a space to call my own within my original stomping grounds, which is no easy feat amidst the intense urban landscape that is New York City. In honor of the city’s Archtober architecture and design month, I took a trip to the MINI LIVING Urban Cabin – designed in collaboration with Bureau V – which is now open to the public at A/D/O in Brooklyn.
New York City has long been a junction for migration. The Statue of Liberty stands tall in the harbor, torch in hand, lighting the way for newcomers seeking a respite from their former lives. But the Big Apple isn’t quite so big. Over 8.5 million people from every corner of the globe are packed into the mere 200,000 acres of land that comprise the city’s five boroughs. From masterful walkers dodging hotdog carts and wide-eyed tourists to faces blurring by on the subway, each and every New Yorker adds to the ever-changing colors of the condensed city – and it’s the variety of these colors that makes New York the extraordinary cultural melting pot it is. As the city’s population increases, it’s imperative that our urban landscape shifts to meet the demand for innovative spaces that reflect our individuality and creatively fit into a complex physical grid.
On a rainy Monday morning, I had the chance to check out the MINI LIVING Urban Cabin – a model micro-home in collaboration with Bureau V – at A/D/O, a design hub facilitating creative exchange in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. As a native New Yorker crammed into a tiny Upper East Side apartment with a roommate and a whole lot of belongings, I was excited to experience a minimalist shared living concept that sets out to transform a space into a place. Upon entering the courtyard at A/D/O, the Urban Cabin provided an immediate pop of color and iridescence against the backdrop of an otherwise grey October sky. I stared into a blurred image of myself and the courtyard’s wall art as I gazed at the reflective exterior, nodding to the chaotic, colorful and inimitable scene you’ll find on any street corner of New York City. However, the interior felt completely serene. It was a little sanctuary amidst the hustle and bustle transpiring outside its walls.
I particularly enjoyed the experience room, which took shape as a cozy “nest.” This space was designed as a safe place for escaping the at times overwhelming nature of New York, enabling visitors to recoil into their own worlds. Protective, bright yellow spikes protruded from the nest’s exterior, poking fun at the awkwardness of acclimating to life in the city. Books detailing micro-living and urbanization lined the walls and even hung from the ceiling, which I interpreted as a satirical allusion to the difficulty of navigating a new home. Between the nest and the hammock hanging in the garden, there were plenty of spots to relax and read about these topics. I also enjoyed the traditional galley kitchen design, which is so deeply ingrained in the design of New York homes.
Part of the Cabin was designated as a place where visitors can write down their hopes for the future of cities, roll up their papers and stick them into slots in the wall. My personal hopes? That New York can address urban challenges head on to ensure the city can continue to be a haven for anyone seeking a new life, and that our diverse backgrounds can keep adding more and more color to this one-of-a-kind city as globalization takes aim at cultural individuality. My great grandparents immigrated to New York during World War II, and I am here today because the city embraced them with open arms and ample opportunity. New York saw the diversity they could bring to the city, and I hope that as New Yorkers, we continue to welcome this diversity and let it shine.
It might have been the rain, the peaceful atmosphere, the familiar characteristics of New York homes or a combination of the three, but I could have spent all day in the Urban Cabin. It was inviting, minimalist and, above all, thought-provoking. It’s wild to think that this type of versatile, shared home could be constructed so efficiently. I can envision this type of living space creating comfortable homes for current New Yorkers, as well as charismatic home-away-from-homes for future New York transplants. The experience encouraged me to think about my footprint in the New York urban environment, my material belongings and the role they play in my day-to-day life, the way I interact with my fellow New Yorkers, and how we differentiate ourselves as New Yorkers amidst increasingly homogenized city landscapes. I’m personally excited to follow along as the MINI Urban Cabin evolves from a prototype into a feasible home concept, facilitating more open and collaborative cities in the year to come.
Text by Alexa Mechanic, communications specialist based in New York, New York