A Vibrant Cabin in NYC Explores the Future of Urban Living

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo / Published by Dwell
Presented by MINI
As cities continue to explode in population despite diminishing space for expansion, we have to wonder—what does the future hold for urban dwellers?

MINI LIVING, a division of the iconic automobile company dedicated to the creative use of space, has started to branch out into architecture with solutions for the future of cities and urban living. Tapping into the design expertise that the company is known for, their latest innovation—the Urban Cabin—further explores how to design for life on a small footprint. 

MINI LIVING initially launched the Urban Cabin concept last month during the London Design Festival. Designed by the MINI LIVING Team, the cabin is an homage to the historic richness of London, complete with its own micro-library. 

This month, it was New York City’s turn, and MINI LIVING took over the courtyard at A/D/O—a new creative space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, founded by MINI—to launch the Urban Cabin. However, this time the design took on a quintessentially American angle by celebrating immigration and cultural diversity—themes that particularly resonate in a city like modern New York.

The MINI LIVING Team was inspired by experiences like living in Shanghai and Shikumen, traditional lane-houses observed throughout the city’s crowded urban neighborhoods. "Although many of these traditional buildings have since been torn down, it´s impressing how people live in such cramped quarters, forcing social interaction to happen outside the home, and creating a safe and upbeat environment despite a lack of personal space" says Oke Hauser, Creative Lead of MINI LIVING. 

A Vibrant Cabin in NYC Explores the Future of Urban Living - Photo 1 of 8 - The iridescent exterior allows light to enter while maintaining a sense of privacy thanks to a wall of greenery. 

The iridescent exterior allows light to enter while maintaining a sense of privacy thanks to a wall of greenery. 

Condensed living calls for thoughtful planning and high-quality construction. The MINI LIVING design team utilized the same base as the London version, but chose to focus on the in-between spaces. The 160-square-foot cabin can open and close like a box on wheels—when opened, the tiny house offers space for inhabitants to move seamlessly throughout the structure, and convene around its exterior. The adaptability of the cabin is key, enabling inhabitants to customize their space and feel more at home in a temporary living situation.  

A Vibrant Cabin in NYC Explores the Future of Urban Living - Photo 2 of 8 - The spiky metal extensions, created by the MINI LIVING design team’s NYC-based collaborators Bureau V, protrude like a vibrant yellow giant sea anemone. 

The spiky metal extensions, created by the MINI LIVING design team’s NYC-based collaborators Bureau V, protrude like a vibrant yellow giant sea anemone. 

The MINI LIVING design team collaborated locally with the NYC-based architecture firm Bureau V. Architects Peter Zuspan and Laura Trevino were inspired to incorporate a sense of humor into their design—a nod to the role that humor has been playing in the media recently, as well as its role as a potential coping mechanism for immigrants—to lighten the pressures of adapting to life in a new country. 

"Architects are like psychologists," said Peter Zuspan, Principal of Bureau V. "They listen to the needs and desires of people, and then suggest what could work best."

A Vibrant Cabin in NYC Explores the Future of Urban Living - Photo 3 of 8 - The iridescent color creates a playful energy, serving as a metaphor for the motion and color of the many diverse inhabitants of New York City.

The iridescent color creates a playful energy, serving as a metaphor for the motion and color of the many diverse inhabitants of New York City.

"The iridescent, colorful outside allows light to enter the structure while creating a cozy sense of privacy—the playful energy serving as a metaphor for the motion and color of the many diverse inhabitants of New York City," explains Corinna Natter, Experience Designer at MINI LIVING. Bureau V drew on inspiration from old-school New York City diners with the incorporation of a shiny silver roof crafted from pleather, which is set above the unit’s tiny kitchen archway. The corridor leads to the "Experience Room," a cozy, cocoon-like nook that’s meant to elicit feelings of safety, security, and relaxation within the unconventional setting. In contrast to the interior, the yellow spiky exterior of the experience room protrudes like a giant yellow sea anemone from the exterior.

A Vibrant Cabin in NYC Explores the Future of Urban Living - Photo 4 of 8 - Drawing inspiration from classic New York City diners, a shiny silver roof crafted from pleather covers the unit’s tiny kitchen archway. 

Drawing inspiration from classic New York City diners, a shiny silver roof crafted from pleather covers the unit’s tiny kitchen archway. 

A/D/O was established by MINI to be a platform for pioneering work and a forum for interdisciplinary debate—exploring the role that design plays in steering us toward progress and improving urban life. The Urban Cabin is a welcome addition to A/D/O’s diverse range of cultural offerings, as the structure challenges traditional notions of housing—proposing solutions that respond to new lifestyles, culture, and demographics.

To complement the Urban Cabin installation, A/D/O will host a series of events and workshops throughout the month of October, focusing on topics of a changing residential landscape and the further development of the Urban Cabin into a habitable concept ready for sale by next year.

The MINI LIVING URBAN CABIN will be on view daily at A/D/O between 9am-7pm through November 22 and is free and open to the public.

A Vibrant Cabin in NYC Explores the Future of Urban Living - Photo 5 of 8 - The home’s "library" features books hanging from the ceiling via a stylish turquoise counterweight. 

The home’s "library" features books hanging from the ceiling via a stylish turquoise counterweight. 

A Vibrant Cabin in NYC Explores the Future of Urban Living - Photo 6 of 8 - The "library" is designed with a shelving system that allows light to enter, opening up the narrow living space.

The "library" is designed with a shelving system that allows light to enter, opening up the narrow living space.

A Vibrant Cabin in NYC Explores the Future of Urban Living - Photo 7 of 8 - The injection of humor into the design is a nod to the role that humor has been playing in the media, as well as its potential role as a coping mechanism for immigrants trying to adapt to life in a new country.

The injection of humor into the design is a nod to the role that humor has been playing in the media, as well as its potential role as a coping mechanism for immigrants trying to adapt to life in a new country.

A Vibrant Cabin in NYC Explores the Future of Urban Living - Photo 8 of 8 - The Urban Cabin examines what the future could hold for city dwellers, celebrating immigration and cultural diversity while exploring design for life on a small footprint.

The Urban Cabin examines what the future could hold for city dwellers, celebrating immigration and cultural diversity while exploring design for life on a small footprint.

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