Set in New York City’s Harlem, The Smile is designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and offers a series of new rental living spaces. Residences in the building range from open studio lofts to two-bedroom apartments, including a series of units fitted with flexible, shape-shifting furniture designs by Bumblebee Spaces. Five apartments are currently installed with the system, with more planned for the near future. 

The Smile: a new New York building by Bjarke Ingels 

the curved façade of The Smile, a Bjarke Ingels New York building
The Smile. Photography: Pernille and Thomas Loof

The building’s façade along 126th Street features a gently curving design, a grin-like form that gives the structure its name. The T-shaped blueprint of the mixed-use development hosts a nursing school at street level, with apartments above (one third of which are affordable housing units). 

The façade features a chequerboard panel motif that incorporates the floor-to-ceiling windows of each apartment, overlooking East Harlem towards Central Park, with additional views towards Harlem River and the Bronx. Inside, a tiled reception area is inspired by the neighbourhood’s murals. The building’s amenities include a fitness centre, communal lounges and workspaces, while on the rooftop are hot tubs, a swimming pool and decks with landscaped surroundings.  

Apartment design by Bumblebee Spaces

An apartment at The Smile in New York with modular moving furniture by Bumblebee Spaces. The picture shows the wooden bed being raised above the room and into the ceiling.

The Smile is the first New York City building to offer Bumblebee Spaces’ kinetic living solution, with a series of apartments fitted with the efficiently modular moving furniture. 

Designed in San Francisco by former Apple and Tesla engineers, Bumblebee’s modular furniture system is created to change a room’s function ‘by utilising cubic space rather than relying solely on square footage’. Through a sophisticated robotics system, modules stored on the ceiling can be lowered and raised as needed; Bumblebee can mobilise a bed, desk and storage units through app- and voice-controlled systems. 

An apartment at The Smile in New York with modular moving furniture by Bumblebee Spaces. The picture shows storage boxes lowered from the ceiling alongside the bed

Built on a ceiling-mounted grid and crafted in wood, the system can hold several tonnes and its interface is designed to catalogue storage units’ contents so particular objects can be summoned through an app. This way, a space can transform from lounge to home office to bedroom according to a person’s requirements, and keep evolving throughout the day. §