Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to share his architecture and design ideas through speculative projects. His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

Schematic Design of NYC Micro Dwellings

Schematic Design of NYC Micro Dwellings


Moving into the schematic design phase of the NYC Micro Dwellings, developed my design concepts by sketching perspectives of my ideas and built a 3D massing model in Revit. I explored a two story unit with a bedroom and outdoor balcony area on the second floor that would be accessed by a staircase. Due to the space allocation for the staircase, this idea was inefficient in its use of the unit’s square footage and the design was not ADA compliant. So I continued refining this idea and ultimately came up with a single story unit that provides an abundance of storage, natural light and multi-purpose spaces.

Sketches and Revit Massing Model

My initial step in the schematic design phase focused on developing ideas in my sketchbook and designing the general form of each unit. The design intent was to vertically separate the living and sleeping areas of each unit by providing a two story space that accommodated a bed and storage. From the bedroom, occupants would have access to a private outdoor balcony located directly above the living room. These unit schemes were developed in Revit as massing models and placed together in various configurations to construct a massing of the building’s overall form.

NYC Micro Dwelling Massing Model Sketch

NYC Micro Dwellings Massing Models

While developing the floor plan of each unit, I encountered an issue with providing a full staircase to access the second floor bedroom and balcony. With the stairs in place, it was impossible to fit millwork for storage, an ADA bathroom, and a multi-purpose area for the kitchen and living room. In addition, each unit’s overall square footage would be 600-800 sq ft, most of which was lost with the staircase leading upstairs.

By reducing the height of the unit to a single story, removing the staircase, and increasing the unit’s width, the overall square footage was reduced to 400 sq ft. I went back to developing more ideas in my sketchbook and focused on sketching in plan rather than isometric. Many ideas from the previous design scheme - such as the outdoor balcony and millwork for storage - was carried over to the new design and my focus was on developing a universally designed unit. This new design provides multi-slide French doors to the balcony; allowing the occupant(s) to fully open their multi-purpose living, sleeping, and dining space to the outdoors.

NYC Micro Dwellings SD Plan Sketch

Unit Floor Plan Development

Once the floor plan sketch was developed, I brought it into Revit to see if it would work with the new dimensions of each unit. To my surprise, the sketch worked very well within the space and required very few modifications. As you enter the unit, the entry door opens towards a wall full of millwork that includes storage, a murphy bed, and an entertainment area. To the right of the entry is an accessible bathroom with the option of having a bathtub or just a shower. At the other end of the unit, there are 5 multi-slide French doors that lead to the balcony. With these French doors fully open, the kitchen and multi-purpose space merges with the balcony and becomes an outdoor space. The kitchen provides built in millwork with a custom cabinet for stowing stackable chairs and a custom table that could be folded up and locked to the side of the cabinet. 

NYC Micro Dwelling SD Unit Floor Plan

NYC Micro Dwelling SD Unit Isometric Unit

Design Refinements and Full Building Floor Plan

With the design of the unit figured out, the next step was to develop a floor plan for the entire building by using duplicates of the unit. As I began duplication the units and placing them throughout one floor plate, I encountered another challenge, which was to figure out the corner unit’s design. The typical 400 sq. ft. unit would fit perfectly in the corner and wouldn’t leave any room for an entrance. So the corner unit was elongated to accommodate the entry and grew to 600 sq ft.

NYC Micro Dwelling SD Unit Isometric Overall

Developing the Building Model and Balconies

Since the goal of this project is to maximize the amount of units per floor and to provide the NYC Micro Dwellings at a low cost, I decided to repeat the two different modules on every floor. A majority of the building will be comprised of the 400 sq ft module, while the 600 sq ft module would only be used at the two corners on the northwest and northeast areas of every floor. With this floor plan developed in Revit, duplicating the same layout on every floor was a simple task.

NYC Micro Dwellings Developing Upper Floor Development

After duplicating the floor plan on floors 3 to 10, the next task was to design the balconies to allow for interaction between units. Due to the size of the NYC Micro Dwelling, I decided to work under the assumption that most of the occupants will either live alone or with a significant other. This led to my thought that spaces should be designed for interaction among neighbors and others in the building to form a strong community and grow networks. By allowing residents to network with one another, the possibilities of financial growth and companionship are increased.

Initially, my idea was to angle the balcony floor of every unit back towards the corner of the unit to create areas on the balcony for neighbors to see and talk to one another. This design would shift on between every level to allow a resident to have a conversation with their neighbors who live both adjacent, above, and below their unit. However, the depth of the balcony was too small for anyone to use the space.

NYC Micro Dwellings Balcony Design Scheme 1

As I continued to refine the design of the balcony, I decided to take advantage of the fully operable multi-slide doors that allow each unit to open their kitchen and multi-purpose space to the outside. The second balcony design angles the balcony back and is repeated with the adjacent units. In the previous design, the balconies of two adjacent units would form an obtuse angle. This design forms a right and acute angle between units and is mirrored between floors.

NYC Micro Dwellings Balcony Design Scheme 2

Developing the Ground and First Floors

Once the balconies were designed on every floor, the next task was to design the ground and first floor exterior form. Initially, I thought of continuing the same floor plate design onto the lower levels. However, the lower floors are going to be public spaces, which generally consists of glazing for visual connections between outside and inside. So the second floor plate’s perimeter joins the angles from the floors above and curtain walls trace the perimeter of the 2nd and 3rd floors. This creates a dynamic form with small balconies that could be completely open with multi-slide doors. As the project develops and the public programs of the lower floors are defined, I’ll revisit the design scheme of the ground and first floors.

NYC Micro Dwellings Ground and First Floor Initial Design

Next Steps

With the building form defined, the next step is to design the balcony railing and to determine the exterior façade material. These two elements will finalize the Micro Dwellings’ design and I’ll be able to switch my focus to developing the public programs and final design of the lower levels. In terms of exterior materials and balcony railing, I’m considering a horizontal wood rain screen system that transitions into the balcony railing system throughout the building.

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Design Development of NYC Micro Dwellings

Design Development of NYC Micro Dwellings

Conceptual Design of NYC Micro Dwellings

Conceptual Design of NYC Micro Dwellings