The east coast is no stranger to innovative housing solutions. As the largest metropolitan area in the nation, when it comes to housing their citizenry they have had centuries to get it right…and get it wrong. Historically speaking, these innovations once witnessed the rise of large tenement districts, which the Progressives of the early 20th-century railed against, to the rise in the use of boarding houses, shelters, missions, and the growth of what came to be known as single room occupancy units. The latest manifestation in this war against the Big Apple’s chronic housing shortage is found in the development of “micro-apartments.”
Created under the auspices of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office, last January his office selected the winner of the 2012 competition to design and build a residential tower on city land. The design features apartments, between 250 and 370 square feet, which have nearly 10-foot ceilings and Juliette balconies.
While 250 square feet might make a sardine feel jealous, it is not a great deal of space for a human occupant, but what the residents lose in space they more than make up in available amenities such as a gym, public gardens, park views, and public lobby. Regardless of the amenities however, critics question whether living in that small of a space will subject the occupants to unintended health risks. Whether you’re living “small” in the Big Apple or the City of Brotherly Love of Philadelphia, micro-apartments have the potential to transform the was we live, but at what cost to the residents psyche.
A Sense of Personal Space
Beyond sheltering us from inclement weather and an address to get our Christmas cards deliver to, our homes represent a canvas on which we communicate our values and goals to our friends and loved ones. While 300 square feet might be the perfect place for an on-the-go 20 something, as a society we tend to make what is known as “identity claims” based on our possessions. As such, we feel happier and healthier when we can share those possessions as a way of demonstrating our unique personalities to our friends and loved ones.
According to University of Texas psychology professor, Samuel Gosling, “When we think about micro-living, we have a tendency to focus of functional things like is there room enough for the fridge, but an apartment has to fill other psychological needs as well, such as self-expression and relaxation that might not be easily met in a highly cramped space.”
As noted, micro-apartments may well prove the perfect housing solution for a certain subset of the population in Philadelphia. Specifically speaking, young professionals in their 20s can do well in this environment however; the confined space can have a deleterious affect on the psyches of older residents say in their 30s or 40s.
As people move through their life-cycles, their needs change and by the time they’ve transitioned into their mid-30s they’re unwilling to have to decide between the crowding of their personal space, and the social crowding attended by just close proximity to so many other people. Indeed, crowded related stress has been identified with increased instances of both domestic violence and substance abuse.
“Micro-apartments may be fantastic for young professionals in their 20s,” said director of design for human health at Boston Architectural College, Dak Kopec. “But they definitely can be unhealthy for older people who face different stress factors that can make tight living conditions a problem.”
Similarly, it is not an environment where children necessarily thrive. No matter how well a unit is designed, squeezing a child, and its parents, into 300 square feet will have terrible consequences for everyone involved. Children living in crowded conditions have shown a marked tendency towards being withdrawn and performing poorly in school due to lack of concentration.
Children require a fundamental level of privacy to fully develop that is completely lacking in a micro-apartment setting. In these instances, no number of available amenities will compensate for the establishment of personal space for a youngster who is socially compelled to claim his or her space. At Cosmopolitan Apartments we believe in choice and as such we have a wide array of apartments for our customers to choose from.