Living in 7 square meters
Alaina Randazzo, content creator living in New York, can stretch the length of his sixty-five feet on the floor of his Manhattan apartment without straining his neck. The space spans just over 7 square meters, making it one of the smallest accommodations in New York City. She moved there in January 2022, at a rent of $650 a month, after leaving the luxury residence she previously lived in to save up for travel. “Moving to an apartment like this was a well thought out choice”trust the designer A.D. “I have put aside considerable sums.” The interior consists of a small kitchen (with a small fridge, two-plate stove and microwave oven), a corner bed in mezzanine opens onto a skylight and a small living space that she has furnished with a mini sofa and a table. It also has a private bathroom in the lobby, which by its own admission is nothing too glamorous. “I tried to decorate it, but I prefer to shower at the gym. It’s a luxury gym that I was able to join because I live in a small apartment.”
In September 2022, Alaina Randazzo’s tiny house made headlines when Caleb Simpson, a well-known Tiktoker who visited the apartments of Resident of New York, invited herself to her home for a video. The buzz was immediate. “I expected people to react because it’s an unusual place to live, and I thought it would shock some people.”she explained about the publication that generated more than 45 million views, “but I certainly didn’t expect such an impact”.
Alaina Randazzo’s “shoebox” apartment is not the first to create controversy on social networks. The 9 square meter space of Axel Weber, another content creator, made the rounds of the networks at the beginning of 2022, as well as the accommodation of a Parisian woman of a similar surface. These apartments can cause great outrage, especially when one suspects a poor attempt by a landlord to cram as many people as possible into a apartment building extract maximum rent. Sometimes they are also considered the fate of big cities.
A response to climate issues?
“In the strict sense of the term, we are talking about microspaces for surfaces that are between 23 and 37 square meters, but they can come in different forms.”explains Frances Anderton, author of the book Community Land: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles and former presenter of the radio show DnA: Design and Architecture. They can correspond to secondary accommodation, mini-houses, dormitories, spaces for live together… Although small accommodation is often the subject of criticism, there are certain arguments that must be taken into account for this type of installation to become a common standard (and perhaps for the best).
“With global warming and if we want to live in a decent world in the coming decades, architecture has an important role to play”, says Matthieu Torres, an architect in Paris who lives in an apartment of about 24 square meters. He bought the house in an unsanitary condition and used his architectural training to create a raised bed nook, a small closet, a bathroom and a kitchen. “Many Experts Recommend Halting New Construction,” he continues. Currently, the built environment contributes almost 40% of global CO emissions2from construction to operational operations.
With an ever-growing population, stopping construction altogether is not always an option, but building less is still one of the most viable options. “You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner to understand that the environmental impact of a smaller space is less.”, jokes the architect. Narrower surfaces use less material, minimize construction waste, require lessenergy both for heating and for air conditioning and reduce urban sprawl, which reduces the use of cars. “It’s just about reducing energy and material requirements”, he continues. And since they are often cheaper to build, micro units can benefit from high-quality materials.
If micro-apartments can sometimes seem stuffy, there are many solutions to arrange them more comfortably. For example, take living together, which Frances Anderton describes as the “next of kin” micro apartments. “It’s a set of micro-apartments”she says “but these micro-units come together around shared amenities.” It is especially supported by a building of Los Angeles christened the Boom House. Residents have the option of renting a room in a shared apartment or a private studio with a relatively low carbon footprint, and they have access to many amenities such as a workshop, recording studio, gym, library, a rooftop, ‘ a dining room and a living room. Each of the 50 tenants can therefore benefit from a space that is usually only found in large houses, without having to build as much individual houses which is not sustainable and remains unaffordable for many.