Communal Living


A friend of mine is interested in the idea of creating a style of apartment building with the idea of communal living.  8-12 micro apartments with a bed and bath all attached to a larger communal space that has a kitchen and other amenities.  Idea being that it could be used for kids just out of college or people in their mid year who want their own space but also like having people around or for seniors that aren't interested in the traditional nursing home.

I'm looking for examples to put together a kind of wide ranging set of precedents to base this newish idea on.

I've thought of places like Zumikon in Switzerland that has done similar things to this..or even hostels or even the Real World (albeit not an ideal example).  Anyone out there got any projects that they've seen..preferably fairly modern in taste, but others are good too.

Sep 13, 12 5:51 pm

No specific examples, but this is also how many people with disabilities live.

Sep 13, 12 6:47 pm

Look at Co-Housing.

Sep 13, 12 7:38 pm

This already exists all over Brooklyn.  Google "McKibben lofts" and enjoy your infestation of bed bugs!

Sep 16, 12 12:00 pm

You mentioned kids out at college - college dorms themselves are often an example of this sort of living.

Sep 16, 12 2:23 pm

The dorm case is somewhat parallel, but only goes so far.  College dorms have an entire infrastructure looking out for the kids that the co-housed hipsters don't.  True, some hipsters may still be using mom/dad's Visa card, but that don't get rid of the bedbugs.

Sep 16, 12 2:36 pm

i lived in a 'commune' in Seattle for a few was a terrible experience

Sep 16, 12 7:12 pm

Well don't tease us with that and then drop it, Mdler. 

Spill it!

Sep 16, 12 7:15 pm

I'll check out the McKibben lofts... I'm aware of some similar things being done here in NYC, but most of what I've seen has been large shared space with individual bedrooms in existing loft buildings.... I think there are a number of differences.... like no shared bathrooms.  I think it's an interesting idea, but as of et don't exactly know how well it would work.

Sep 16, 12 8:30 pm

This is very much not a "newish" idea at all..

when i moved to new york in 2006 i saw shown some apartments that were this style

a very small "private space" basically enough room for a bed small fridge and hotplate affectionately called the "matchbox suite" by the realtor 

and then a communal kitchen and bathroom, that a maid service was suppose to come around and clean daily (when i was shown them in the middle of the day they were disgusting)

I would rather just have a roomate, that i can choose.. .. if i cant afford my own place, so thats what i did...


ALSO i just moved to Shanghai, and i was shown this style of apartment again...

the situation was MORE unsettling than in the US.. and i would never do it... im certainly

not some spoiled rich kid too good for communal living.. but i am too good for prolong disgusting living...

The idea is not new, and on paper in is rendering it might seem nice, but i think most people coming from very developed countries would opt out of this style of living ESP if they are finish college and are wanting to start their real adult life...

Sep 16, 12 9:32 pm

Have a look at Intergenerational Housing in Germany. Very common.

Essentially a band of like-minded people (typically older people who want to retire and live together, but also want amenity and to live around young families) form a trust and approach a builder to d&b a building for them. So its a mix of presales that the builder can then go and get funding on. The trick is finding a developer/builder who understands the ethos, and can get access to funding and organising models.

Not a hippy/commune type idea, but here in NZ (based on the German model), the idea is that young people and old people can live together in a symbiotic way - the older people are on site to either passively or more actively look after children for example.

There is a need for communal gardens, a communal space for get-togethers, perhaps a commercial enterprise on site (a shop or cafe). There may be even some way of the sponsor residents supplementing the rent of some apartments to create more affordable living for young families. Amenity is important.

Its more of a tailored or curated facility rather than a utopian ideal.

It has been hard to formalise and fund this kind of development here thus far but that will change.

Sep 16, 12 9:40 pm

Its more of a tailored or curated development for a group of like minded people rather than a utopian ideal.

Also in this model, each apartment/unit is standalone i.e. no communal bathroom/kitchen.

Sep 16, 12 9:41 pm

apparently once you bring your Cuisineart into a commune it becomes communal property

Sep 17, 12 1:30 am

Aha!  Capital is to be socially owned.  Forget that private property ethos.

Sep 17, 12 1:35 am

dia..thanks.. i'll look into it.  i've argued that their shouldn't be a communal kitchen... my friend wants to keep costs down so he's argued for that.  Each suite would have a bathroom and small living room space sort of thing...along with separate entry... not sure how it'd work yet...and what would make it compelling..but my friend is sure he can get funding.  I agree on amenities... that is used all the time here in NYC high rise residential towers and would seem to be necessary here as well.

Ms.Winston... i understand your points and I do want to make sure it's not some sort of gross college dorm-like space that gets regularly trashed.

I think the need for this type of housing may be borne more out of the fact that more people are single than married in the US (or so I'm told) and my friend sees a market for people that don't just want to live alone, but still want their own space as well.

Sep 17, 12 1:40 am

SRO (Single Room Occupancy) was a primary driver behind the overall decline and crack epidemic of New York because it segregates single men, the poor, the chronically homeless and prostitutes away from the general population.

Sep 17, 12 10:37 am

The homes for people with disabilities that I worked on had 5-6 bedrooms and 3-4 baths with several shared living spaces that were similar in size that you would find in a large house, not only kitchen and living, but libraries and porches too. In turn, at one of these projects some of these houses were sited on a campus with other amenities.

My great aunt lived in a boarding house when she was a young nurse. It used to be a very large single family home, then it was the boarding house, it has been a museum since I was little and I loved going there and imagining her living there. There was lots of great public spaces.

There are on-site caretakers or house managers for all of the above. I can't imagine otherwise.

Sep 17, 12 11:46 am

yeah JJames... i don't think that this idea has anything in common with SROs.

Sep 17, 12 12:55 pm

lars - seconded co-housing, kibbutz, ...  although - it's mostly about tenant buy-in to this particular lifestyle - part of the association/co-op/leasing agreement... I guess you could provide common space, but I don't see how this is different from most living situations in smaller buildings with shared amenities.  I did the communal living thing for a while in a large house with several roommates - we split cooking and cleaning, had a house checking account for food, bills, etc.. which we all paid into and a couple people managed.  it fell apart when we got a new roommate who was extremely selfish, disrespectful of others, and didn't contribute to the system.  it was great those first couple years, though.


anyway - something like this only works if you're highly selective about who you let into the community and if they are fully on board...  not sure if this is an architectural problem, though.

Sep 18, 12 11:14 am

Toasteroven's comment is spot on:

"something like this only works if you're highly selective about who you let into the community and if they are fully on board...  not sure if this is an architectural problem, though"

This illustrates the age-old question asking how much does physical design and environment shape behavior.  Time and again, the answer is: some.

So, design and environment are important, but far from the only factor at work.  As architects, we shouldn't be discouraged by this.  We should do our very best to make the best environments we can, but accept that we can only do so much.

Sep 18, 12 12:29 pm

"why you want to put me in a cage Mr. Architect"

It's amazing that we've done a full 180, and plumbing is at a premium again. Sink and a frigging toilet of your own. You don't deserve either. Once we break your spirit, we can abuse you in ways of our choosing.

lars, please tell your friend his idea is an opportunist  band-aid solution to much larger social problem. Shared housing is a tool of oppression.

Sep 18, 12 1:38 pm

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