Traditional apartment design can be very limiting; you might start out with a small unit on a lower floor to save money, but as circumstances change you have few options other than selling and moving. That is why plug-in housing is such an interesting architectural idea; it offers so much more flexibility.
It is not a new idea; Archigram envisioned it in 1965 with Plug-in City. Mike Webb described the idea of a crane on the roof:
The crane, "now considered part of the architectural ensemble," Archigram's Mike Webb wrote, would simply be embedded there, "lifting up and moving building components so as to alter the plan configuration, or replacing parts that had work out with a 'better' product."
Y Design Office has developed a 75 storey version that can handle up to 1960 different iterations of the basic designs in a number of sizes. No longer will the occupant be fixed in one place forever; the architects write in Bustler:
The ambition is a new alternative high-rise residential typology, in which its inhabitants are given unique units and allocations in accordance to specific zoning strategy within a tower structure, thus creating a phenomenal living experience through bonding and acquiring needs by each and every single individual. It is a re-interpretation of the balance between genericity and specificity aiming at formulating an extraordinary democratic living concept.
The overall architectural settings of the units generate an extremely complex, yet harmonic living network. The network adapts through time in terms of location, zoning and orientation. Every 5 years each unit will be re-located and contribute to the expansion of the network in order to achieve improved and stronger social bonding in-between units. The 30-year life-cycle of a unit fundamentally engages 6 different locations throughout the tower. There is also a plug in & out mechanical system for the re-allocation of the units within a 4-month period for the capacity of 1,940 units.
It is all about community; there is a core atrium area to permit communication among residents. Perhaps, like Andrew Maynard proposed in his Corb 2.0 proposal, when people have babies they move all the people with kids together so that they don't annoy everyone else.
Diversity of public programs generates an energetic community. Each public program situates specific area of each floor [sky-garden], every five floors [sky-lobby] and each zone [four zone at 3rd, 20th, 40th, 60th and 75th floors] to provide public services for the users, as well as providing high dynamic pedestrian connections between floors. An intimate social fellowship and physical community are made possible by variety in activities.
There are all kinds of issues with plug-in housing that have to be resolved, including duplication of structure, waterproofing, service connections and more, it is like a very complicated vertical trailer park. But it offers some interesting options for adapting to changing conditions. More at Bustler and Evolo.
Other interesting plug-in projects to the left in Related.