The Apartment of the Future is Here

The apartment of the future is by no means a new concept, but it pervades the social conscience as multifamily architects and designers adopt new styles and attempt new feats. To defy convention is the goal of any designer on the cutting edge.

The original apartment of the future is the present

The New York Times ran an article in 1982 entitled “The Apartment of the Future: A Luxurious Design for Today.”  It tells the story of Iris Kaplan, a New York-based painter, who transformed her apartment from a closed-off eight rooms to a wide-open, three-room design to create a more fluid living space.

At that time, designers began to pitch novel apartment concepts – dubbed “space aged” – but few dared take the leap due largely to expense. Kaplan and her team of architects captured the futuristic look through liberal use of stainless steel, mirrors, marble surfaces and the like.

Kaplan was about 30 years ahead of the curve. Though edgy at the time, these styles have become nearly quotidian additions to apartment living. Stainless steel appliances may only complete a kitchen where, previously, they would have defined it. Today’s apartment designs favor open spaces, clean lines and polished finishes. Hallways are taboo, low ceilings are too restrictive and carpet has been replaced by faux wood.

The question is: Where do we go from here?

Vertically ‘green’ high-rise is ‘way out there’

Rather than simply reimagining a space, the next jump in the evolution of apartments attempts to reimagine how we live. Humphreys & Partners Architects gave a recent webinar where they illustrate – quite literally – their vision of the future of apartment living.

Their vision takes the shape of a soaring tower that incorporates an almost alien façade with lush greenery. The kinetic façade literally moves. The panels that make up the façade spin and shift, giving the building the aesthetic of a living organism. However, the “green” high-rise grounds the structure as purely terrestrial with the earthiness of lush foliage. Humphreys & Partners envision organic farming with a vertical planting system that “[collects] rainwater, [harvests] both solar and wind energy and [recycles] gray water then uses it to grow vegetable gardens,” according to their website.

In September at the Multifamily Executive Conference in Las Vegas, the Dallas-based firm presented the concept of a 71-story community where delivery drones buzz the tower to find their designated landing platforms, and where residents live amid high technology and sustainability in apartments ranging in size from 500-3,500 square feet. The design features in-house gray water recycling and an automated auto storage and retrieval system.

“It’s way out there,” said CEO Mark Humphreys.

From moving skin to moving rooms

The apartment of the future through the eyes of industrial designer Yi-Chen Shin Kuo is not so much about space-aged amenities as it is about revolving cityscape views for its residents.  Kuo’s rotating apartment building, “Turn To The Future,” won the Futuristic Design Category in the A’ Design Award and Competition in 2014.

The building has a spiral design with apartment units perched on a track that slowly spirals downward. When a unit reaches the ground floor, it is lifted to the top floor by an internal crane. A full cycle takes a little more than two months.

Kuo’s design aims to close the distinct gap between wealthy individuals who generally occupy top-floor, penthouse apartments and those who cannot generally afford such luxurious features. Residents receive an equal share of surrounding views, which could work to reduce rent prices.

The next generation will be here before you know it

How soon the industry transitions to the next genre of futuristic multifamily structures is hard to say. Humphreys & Partners is already working on the concept in Nashville and Kuo is looking for financial backing for a five-story prototype. Other designers are already at the drawing board working on ways for apartments to embody the futuristic style and convenience that may initially seem outlandish, but will soon be the experience of every apartment dweller.

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