Living small & going solo

Symposia on designing small-scale housing that's comfortable, efficient, and affordable

March 1, 2013

On January 24, 2013, the League’s executive director, Rosalie Genevro, moderated a panel of speakers at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) on the subject of living comfortably, efficiently, and affordably in small spaces.

Pierluigi Colombo is an architect and designer of transformable furniture for Cleis.r.l.. Colombo offered his perspective on creative solutions to small spaces as well as their effects on those who live with them. Azby Brown is a professor of Architectural Design at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology and founder and director of the Future Design Institute. He has written extensively on compact housing design, including books such as Small Spaces, The Very Small Home, The Japanese Dream Home, and his most recent book, Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan. In the panel, Brown focused on ways in which good design can promote a high quality of life, citing examples of residential design in Japan in which careful use of natural light, soft spatial divisions, well-designed storage and fittings, and awareness of essential characteristics of social interaction combine to provide dwelling space that is private, personal, stimulating, and soothing. Rosanne Haggerty is a national leader in homelessness strategies in the United States. She is the president and founder of Community Solutions, a national nonprofit organization that is building and operating permanent supportive housing, as well as finding other innovative solutions to homelessness. Haggerty touched on the critical importance in her projects of designing and managing social spaces for what she referred to as “blended communities.” Ted Smith, Principal of Smith & Others, a San Diego-based architecture office, is an expert in the movement for shared housing in California and elsewhere. Smith shared his extensive experience building shared “Go-Homes,” and thinking about the social dynamics of those who use them.

Going Solo

Eric Klinenberg and Jerilyn Perine

On February 7, 2013, Jerilyn Perine, Executive Director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, sat down with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg at MCNY to discuss his new book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living AloneThe conversation centered on the dramatic rise in individuals choosing to live alone, a profound demographic shift transforming both economic and cultural life around the world. Klinenberg dispelled many impressions that people tend to have about “singletons,” the term he uses to describe those choosing to live alone, such as that singletons are anti-social or that this is a uniquely American condition. On the contrary, he explained, the data shows that individuals who live by themselves are consistently more socially active (go out to meet friends and family, volunteer with civic organizations, etc.) than their married or non-singleton counterparts, and that the rise of living alone is a thoroughly global phenomenon.