7 Innovative Buildings Designed to Fit Tight Urban Spaces

Cramped, labyrinthine city space can be as alluring as it is claustrophobic. While some people yearn for vast uninterrupted landscapes and stretching horizons, others are drawn to squeeze themselves into an efficiency apartment that’s smaller than the average half-bathroom. With skyrocketing real estate prices and little room left to build in cities like New York or Tokyo, architects have begun to rethink the use of modern urban space.

As most architects, designers, and artists know, limitations can sometimes be much more creatively fruitful than facing endless possibilities. Rather than resort to rebuilding city space, the following seven examples of confined architecture take head on the challenge of limitation. Each of these designs is inspired by efficiency, envisioning novel ways of building around the issue of congestion.


Photo credit: Smithsonian

Described as a “luxury residential tower in a culture of congestion,” Rem Koolhaas’s unbuilt design for 23 East 22nd Street in New York is a playful take on the traditional high rise. Koolhaas’ well known treatise Delirious New York helped to establish him as an architectural gadfly of overcrowded spaces. The building design uses cantilevers, which allow it to rise up from the confined city block and contort to one side like a passenger on a crowded commuter train.