Maximized Density: How Co-Living Spaces Do More with Less

Rising populations and soaring real estate prices pose significant challenged to urban housing. In a desperate hunt for affordable living options, communal co-living spaces have emerged as a creative solution, offering quality living conditions through clever space optimization strategies. By implementing innovative design techniques, these shared living communities maximize every square foot to create functional spaces within compact footprints.

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Developers face significant spatial constraints when attempting to create new housing stock, often working with limited land availability and zoning regulations that restrict building heights and densities. Residents, too, must grapple with the phenomenon of shrinking living spaces, as the demand for urban housing continues to outpace supply. Micro-apartments and compact living quarters are gaining traction, challenging individuals to adapt to living environments with minimal square footage and increased density.

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Co-living spaces have emerged as a remedy to these spatial constraints, optimizing limited square footage through innovative design strategies and shared amenities. By embracing open-concept layouts, multipurpose furniture, and vertical space utilization, these communities are able to maximize the functionality of compact individual units. Lofted sleeping areas, built-in storage solutions, and transformable living spaces allow residents to enjoy private quarters while minimizing underutilized space.

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The Rise of Co-Living: Designing for Communal Life

Co-living developments incorporate shared common areas and amenities, such as communal kitchens, lounges, co-working spaces, and fitness facilities. This approach reduces the need for duplicated resources within each unit, freeing up valuable square footage for living spaces. Co-living spaces offer a viable alternative for urban residents seeking affordable housing options in increasingly dense city environments. Plenty of strategies have been used across developments make the most of limited space:

Extending Space Vertically

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Zeze Osaka Coliving House / SWING. Image © Eiji Tomita

One of the most effective space-saving approaches employed by co-living buildings is the strategic use of vertical space. Instead of relying solely on horizontal layouts, these developments incorporate lofted sleeping areas, multi-level storage solutions, and even compact spiral staircases. In Zeze Osaka Co-living House designed by Japanese architecture studio Swing, they optimized the use of vertical space with the incorporation of a mezzanine level overlooking the ground floor communal living and dining area. By utilizing the vertical dimension with the mezzanine, double height living room, and open stair design, Swing was able to create a sense of spaciousness and varied communal spaces within the compact 140 square meter footprint of the building.

Outdoor Living Space

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Sunset Steps / West of West. Image © West of West

A key space optimization strategy employed by West of West in their concept for Sunset Steps was allocating a generous 65% of the site area to shared greenspaces that foster community interaction. Rather than maximizing private indoor spaces, their design incorporates stepped terraces along the rear of the building that create informal communal gathering areas like decks, balconies, and gardens. Pushing the building massing towards the front of the site opens up the ground level for a spacious shared yard. These outdoor spaces are seamlessly linked by a central branching staircase that provides residents easy access to the various terraces and yard, promoting movement between the separated yet connected green spaces. By prioritizing interconnected outdoor living areas over maximizing interior square footage, West of West's design optimizes the limited site through communal spaces that extend the livability of the units outwards, cultivating a sustainable sense of community.

Multi-functional Furniture Pieces

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High Street House / Teatum+Teatum. Image © Nicholas Worley

Another key strategy is the use of multipurpose, flexible furniture that can adapt to different needs throughout the day. Co-living units often feature transformable furniture and movable partitions, allowing residents to reconfigure their living areas as needed. To optimize space in their High Street House co-living building in London, Noiascape and Teatum+Teatum employed the design of multi-functional furniture pieces and integrated storage solutions within the compact living units. Specifically, they designed the beds as elevated platforms that not only serve for sleeping, but also integrate surfaces for working/studying and built-in storage underneath. They also incorporated custom mobile storage closets made of perforated metal that can serve multiple purposes like clothing storage, room dividers, or displaying objects through the perforations.

Urban Interior Structure

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Dozen Doors Coliving / gon architects. Image © Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzmán + Rocío Romero)

In Madrid, Dozen Doors Co-living was designed by gon architects as an "urban interior structure". By making the central staircase the organizational core, the building allows the efficient stacking of the compact private bedroom units radiating off the stair landings on each level. It facilitates easy access and flow between the communal living spaces like the kitchen, dining, living rooms that are interspersed vertically. The central stair essentially becomes the connective tissue binding the private and public realms. Its position optimizes the floor plates by creating proximity between the individual units and shared amenities without wasted corridor space. This centralized vertical circulation spine strategy enables a dense programming of diverse communal and private functions within the limited floor area of the renovated single-family house.

As urban populations continue to grow and housing affordability remains a pressing issue, co-living spaces offer a viable solution by employing innovative space-saving strategies. From vertical layouts and multipurpose furniture to shared amenities and minimalist design, these developments are redefining urban living, proving that it is indeed possible to create comfortable and functional living environments while "doing more with less."

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: Doing More With Less. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and architecture projects. We invite you to learn more about our ArchDaily Topics. And, as always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.

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Cite: Ankitha Gattupalli. "Maximized Density: How Co-Living Spaces Do More with Less" 13 May 2024. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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