This article is by Simon Bird
Simon is a director of the practice, taking a leading role on strategic, interior and architectural projects.
Co-living is a creative, modern solution for people who want quality housing with a vibrant lifestyle and a real sense of community.
Demand for city living is returning which is a great thing. Plenty of pandemic headlines spoke of people’s desire for rural idylls but this isn’t for everyone, and there is a drive to be back in the metropolitan areas for a new ‘roaring 20s’. ‘In real life’ (IRL) socialising is back, as is a desire to re-connect with culture. Yet high streets and town centres are still struggling, with the online/in-person shopping balance unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels.
A return to town centre living, particularly through new models such as co-living, offers an approach to reactivate our metropolitan centres. A housing shortage in our cities and depressed footfall in our shops and restaurants mean we should be creatively rethinking our urban housing models to restructure our cities and towns. The same young people who can’t wait to get out and about with friends are often trapped in house shares or small flats far from the hub of the action. What is needed is accessible, quality housing in central locations – with amenities and features that appeal to sociable, vibrant young people.
“Post-pandemic we should take the opportunity to be bold and to widen the range of housing models to choose from.”
Co-living can provide this. It is a housing model that thinks differently about space without compromising on quality. Instead of a traditional block of flats with self-contained apartments, connecting hallways and the occasional amenity like a gym, co-living creates an active community. By trading a small amount of private space, residents gain much larger and more exciting collective facilities and shared amenities for working, socialising and relaxing.
By pooling some spaces such as kitchens, lounges and external amenities, as well as practical facilities such as washing and storage that might take up considerable space in a traditional apartment, we are able to repurpose the saved floorplate to create improved spaces that leverage the benefits of scale, and areas tailored to different uses that you would never find in a standard home.
The result is high quality housing with an in-built community, perfect for many young professionals and creatives who want more than the traditional flat share. Private studio apartments with bedrooms, living space and bathrooms – but with access to communal workspaces, lounges, kitchens, gyms, games rooms, roof terraces, or cinemas, to give a few examples.
“By trading a small amount of private space, residents gain much larger and more exciting collective facilities and shared amenities for working, socialising and relaxing.”
This more efficient use of space makes co-living developments ideal for city centre locations and high-density urban living which can also leverage environmental benefits. Bringing whole new communities to the heart of towns and cities puts the high street on your doorstep, and convenience is king without the use of cars. So this also brings hundreds of new, young, exciting patrons to the shops, restaurants and leisure brands – a reinvigoration of the high street that could not simply be achieved with better transport links or glitzier advertising.
The co-living model will not be everyone’s cup of tea but neither is an HMO or a suburban semi. Co-living is a new model that will work for some and offers another choice that can activate our town centres in a sustainable way. Post-pandemic we should take the opportunity to be bold and to widen the range of housing models to choose from.
Co-living could be a major player in building the new urban landscape. One where everyone can be part of a vibrant community, contribute to the vitality and economy of town and city centres, and benefit at the same time from high quality housing with every modern amenity within a moment’s reach.
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