September 30, 2015

GRANT | When Smart Tech Meets Housing

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In the last two months, Cornell students have begun signing housing contracts and leases for the following year. With the hopes of receiving the best location and the best rooms, we find ourselves scrambling to obtain the formal documents necessary to call this new abode “home.”

I can recount multiple stories of my housing experiences from freshman to junior year. In the interest of time, I will simply say that it has always been a bitter-sweet relationship. As a freshman, I successfully captured a spot on West Campus for sophomore year. However, by the time I signed the housing contract and blocked with the members on my floor, I realized that I had been placed in one of the smallest dorms in the University. If you were to stand in the middle of the room, your hands could effectively touch all four walls without moving. It was shocking entering my room for the first time and seeing the space.

This year, as a junior, I have received a number of emails about joining a housing group, a co-op or a residential living center. I weighed the decision of whether I wanted to choose one of these places or set off on my own to hunt for another space to call my own.  Last October, I walked into the Bill & Melinda Gates Hall shortly after its dedication and found the electronic doors and smart tech office spaces — it is also what I would call an architectural masterpiece.  In my mind I wished that I could truly live in a place like Gates Hall, a place that combined comfort with beautiful craftsmanship, technology and personalized elements. This summer while abroad I came across an apartment set to do all of that and perhaps even more.

Last week, Lars Hinrichs, founder of the social software platform Xing, held a welcome meeting for the press and interested parties to introduce what looks to be one of the most innovative approaches to housing in the century.  It is known as Apartimentum. Located in Hamburg, Germany, within a short walk from the city’s center, the project sets the stage for incorporating  state-of-the-art smart technology in an apartment complex with picturesque view of Hamburg.  In Apartimentum, imagination comes to life. From one’s smartphone, one has the ability to preparing one’s bathtub, or to activate music from speakers while the smell the flowers permeates the air.  With sponsors such as Samsung, DHL and CISCO, among many others, Apartimentum looks like it will be something like the 21st century version of Iron Man aka Tony Stark’s fictional home.  The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

At Cornell, our residential living centers, dorms and many of our on-and-off campus living areas are in the style of 19th and 20th century architecture. In contrast to the newer buildings such as Gates Hall and the Physical Sciences Building, Cornell’s student housing are at once classic, gothic and modern — although admittedly far removed from the technological imagination of “the future” living center.

This winter, while Arts and Sciences students wait for the construction of the new additions to Goldwin Smith and faculty look to Rockefeller Island anticipating a beautiful and illustrious Cornell Tech Campus, we should also keep our eye on Germany and Apartimentum to see what the future of housing looks like.

Jeremiah Grant is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Gates & Ladders appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.