In the past decade there has been a shift in user preferences towards walkable, urban neighborhoods. The highest housing prices are now found in dense metropolitan areas rather than wealthy suburbs, and the trend is expected to continue with the growth of Generation Y. Despite this, many people still prefer detached housing units, a preference that is fairly unrealistic in a dense, urban environment. Is this preference legitimate, or merely a residual penchant of something embedded in us as children? What aspects of single-family living are the most appealing? How can we shift the typical multi-family unit to be more satisfying for its inhabitants?
Looking specifically at the adoration towards backyards in suburbia – I believe there are several solutions for making this a reality in the city. Of course there are urban parks, pea patches, rooftop gardens, and the like; however these are missing some key aspects of the single-family yard. Yards are immediately accessible, offer privacy, flexibility and a sense of ownership. Unfortunately, they also go unused for large spans of time. Being that outdoor space is so highly sought after, but often underutilized, we need an urban solution to address both these issues.
What if apartments were reapportioned to include much larger balcony-type spaces that essentially became tiny backyards? Developers and architects could offer a range of options: an 800-sf unit with no balcony, or a 400-sf unit with 400-sf of exterior space, or something in between. Better yet, what if your choice was flexible? In the same way that automatic louvered blinds adjust according to the weather, what if your home was also adjustable? Imagine an exterior façade that could push inward during the summer months, providing more exterior space when you desired it; or likewise, a façade that could be pushed outward to create more interior space during the winter months. Energy conscious people could even opt to live in the smaller interior space year round to save on heating and cooling bills.
To illustrate this concept, here’s an example of how this could work in my current apartment.
I haven’t seen anything like this before, but did find these secret deck spaces. Whatever the means, let’s find a way to secure the sunlight, privacy and flexibility of suburban yards for our cities.