PLAN 82: Article
New Tools for Urban Dwellers
Researchers in the Changing Places group at the Media Lab are developing tools for the customization of standardized urban housing that allow residents to design the optimal living space for their lifestyles even within a limited footprint.
Using a range of parameters, the tool-set engages residents in a process that mirrors how they might work with an architect, beginning by creating a personal profile based on how they live, work, cook and entertain in their home. Developed through image-sorting techniques, social media data, environmental sensor data and questionnaires, the profiles help residents clarify their personal tastes and living patterns.
Working with this profile, then, matching algorithms come up with recommendations for designs to accommodate the residents’ needs. And building on those recommendations, residents can further personalize their design using a drag-and-drop interface to help with visualizing the options, refining rooms and spaces, along with other features such as lighting and HVAC systems, appliances and finishes. The elements of the design are then incorporated into furniture and robotic wall assemblies that are disentangled from the open loft ‘chassis’.
The group is developing this process for apartments ranging in size from 300 to 840 square feet, targeting young urban professionals. An online video illustrates how a small space can function as an apartment two to three times its size. Utilizing a wall system with integrated furniture, storage, kitchen, office, exercise and entertainment spaces, a bedroom can be transformed into a gym with at-home health monitoring. The gym can become an office, as the treadmill folds into one wall and desks and chairs slide out of another.
The living room can turn into a dining room seating 14 people or even an open loft space. Or a guest suite for four. Or two offices with a separate a meeting space. In each case, the walls can be reconfigured on demand to accommodate the occupants’ needs, allowing residents to live within a small footprint without sacrificing functionality or pleasure.
Lead researchers in the CityHome project are Kent Larson, head of the Changing Places group, Hasier Larrea Tamayo, a visiting student from Spain, and Daniel Smithwick, a PhD candidate in the Design and Computation group of the Department of Architecture.