Cloud Urbanism: Towards a Redistribution of Spatial Value

Nick Axel

First published at Volume 47 – The System*, as part of Volume Magazine.

Two recent trends have recently emerged from the United States’ real estate market that pick up on societal transformations in the way architecture and the city is inhabited. If synchronized, they stand to alter the principles under riding contemporary logics of urban development. They do so by embodying an alternative system of values, and thus frame its spatial articulation as a critical design project. The purpose of this short text is to present the two trends next to one another, evaluate the prospects of their synchronization, and speculate toward the future they potentiate in unison.

Contemporary logistics has rendered existenzminimum obsolete. Life no longer needs to be an existential question of having or not, but rather an option of having what you want when you want it, and to not when you don’t. This transformation does not encompass a shift from a private to collective property model, as one may imagine in moving from ownership to use and a sharing-based property model. Indeed, the providence of collective property can easily become a logistical nightmare (who gets what? when? how? why?), but the logistical providence of an individual’s private property need not be. This is the premise of MakeSpace, a company journalists have called “The Dropbox for Physical Storage”. [1] For a monthly storage and regular delivery fee, MakeSpace picks up your stuff from you, takes it to a secure centralized storage facility “outside of the city”, and brings it back whenever you want.

A billboard advertisement for Manhattan MiniStorage. The green background and mention of “the cloud” is a direct reference to MakeSpace. Via Business Insider, Via MakeSpace.

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[1] Jordan Crook, 'MakeSpace, The Dropbox For Physical Storage, Packs Up $8 Million Led By Upfront Ventures', TechCrunch, 1 May 2014. At: techcrunch.com (accessed 20 March 2016).
[2] Megan Rose Dickey, 'A Startup Called MakeSpace Thinks Manhattan Mini Storage Is Attacking It With Its Billboards', Business Insider, 16 June 2014. At: businessinsider.com (accessed 20 March 2016).
[3] Christina E. Crawford, ‘From the Old Family–to the New’, Harvard Design Magazine, 41, 2015, pp. 3845.
[4] Susanne Schindler, ‘Diversity of Lifestyles, Diversity of Incomes’, Harvard Design Magazine, 41, 2015, pp. 1819.
[5] Niklas Maak, 'PostFamilial Communities in Germany',Harvard Design Magazine, 41, 2015, pp. 8089. At: harvarddesignmagazine.org (accessed 4 March 2016).
<[6] Tim Henderson, 'Growing Number of People Living Solo Can Pose Challenges', Stateline, 11 September 2014. At: pewtrusts.org (accessed 2 March 2016).
[7] Reuven Blau, 'NYC could allow more ‘micro-apartments’ as 60,000 people apply to live in below-market tiny units in Manhattan', New York Daily News, 29 December 2015. At: nydailynews.com (accessed 20 February 2016).