Coliving spaces provide, not just a roof over your head but a place to call home


Academics Nikos Salingaros, David Brain, Andres Duany, Michael Mehaffy and Ernesto Philibert-Petit, developed a series of articles investigating how socially-organised housing models, such as coliving, establish emotional ownership. “Residents are attached to their built environment,” which indicates coliving is a successful way of evolving urban areas into more meaningful communities.

Coliving is a new form of social housing, which is a different approach to the urban planning favoured traditionally, with has been “proven as dehumanizing and ultimately unsustainable.”

Some of the key points the authors made are outlined below. Although they focused on social housing in Latin America, I have related some of their key points back to the coliving model

Projects are successful when they are “maintained and loved” by their residents

The authors measured the success of social housing, such as coliving, through looking at the emotional and physical well-being of the residents. They considered the housing projects to be successful, when residents “maintained and loved” their living space. This shows a greater connection between the residents and their coliving space, indicating the space is viewed, not just as a temporary living space, but as a place to call home. Furthermore, the projects were seen as successful when they linked positively to the rest of the city, interacting as a community.

A project is deemed to be unsuccessful and thus unsustainable, if it is disliked by its residents, wastes resources in construction and upkeep, and encourages social degradation and isolation. The key here, in attempting to measure the success of the social housing areas, the authors said, was to form a sustainable process of how to create successful housing areas, rather than enforcing an inflexible image to the design and building of these places.

Through looking at successful coliving spaces, whether they are government-sponsored social housing initiatives, or developed by private individual groups, we can learn from their processes and build upon their patterns, to continue to create successful coliving spaces.

Taking advantage of a “complexity-managing” method

The authors indicated the benefits of taking two mutually complementary approaches when building a successful coliving space. Firstly, one must consider the practical rules behind building social housing areas. Secondly, it is important to investigate the philosophical and scientific theory behind social housing, looking at its social and cultural implications. People who want to build these areas, can then apply the methods and theories, which have evolved through generations, as a way to ensure their own communities will be successful.

The idea of incorporating a “complexity-managing” method to the build, over a “top-down” method, ensures the people themselves can bring their talents to the process, organically evolving the space, connecting everyone by getting them involved. In this way, the residents are taking part in the design and building process and making it their own. The key focus being connection, community and real engagement with their living space. Residents are empowered to show their talents, but also to learn and take advantage of those with even more expertise.

Changing from the “outmoded early industrial model”

The traditional urban planning model has tended to follow an “outmoded early industrial model,” which originated in the 1920s and spread around the world after World War II. The model was based on “top-down” advice, whereby those in charge led by command and control. Yet, this model has become outdated; it refuses to recognise the “physical and social complexity of successful urban fabric,” nor does it consider the importance of human interactions and connections with the built environment.”

The authors propose, the time is now for a “radical new urbanism.” This new urbanism connects physical spatial form with social processes. To implement this, one must look at the built environment as a social process, not just “a product or container.”

Analogy of an ecosystem

There are two contrasting urban methodologies. The first considers that “organic urban fabric is an extension of human biology.” In this way, it is “full of life but can often be poor or unsanitary.” The second considers that “planned construction is an artificial vision of the world imposed by the human mind on nature.” This method can be clean and efficient, but is also sterile. The goal would be for these two methodologies to interlink and coexist. For example, owners and residents choosing to build their own houses.