Co-living, communes and multi-generational solutions

Written By
Ellie Duffy


2022 Davidson Prize judge and Dezeen editor-at-large Amy Freason on co-living, communes and multi-generational solutions

Is there an existing co-living project that really stands out to you?

One of the most inspirational and surprising examples of co-living I’ve come across is Humanitas Deventer in The Netherlands. Featured as a case study in my book, All Together Now: The Co-Living and Co-Working Revolution, it's an elderly care home that also provides housing for students – on the condition that they spend at least 30 hours a week with their elderly neighbours. What’s fantastic is that all residents benefit from this multi-generational setup. Not only do the older residents enjoy the injection of youth, but the younger residents learn about the life experiences of a different generation (while also saving on the cost of student living). There are stories of wheelchair races in the hallways, of younger residents teaching the elders how to use social media, and of lively debates about premarital sex! It’s a project that really challenges our perception of how people of different ages and backgrounds can benefit one another when brought together.

What are your personal experiences of shared living?

Like many people, I lived in student halls in my first year of university then lived in various house- and flat-shares before moving in with my partner. For a young person leaving home for the first time, shared living played a big part in helping me develop as an individual away from my family.

Have you ever wanted to live in a commune?

I don’t know about a commune specifically, but I would definitely explore some form of co-living. One of the biggest advantages of the co-living movement gaining traction right now is that it takes the stress out of co-habiting. When I was young and living in flat-shares, I would never opt for a home with more than 2–3 people, as wasn’t keen on idea of no one being responsible for keeping things in order – I don’t particularly like messy kitchens! But if that side of things was well managed, I would love the idea of living among a community. In particular, I dream of retiring to place like New Ground Co-housing designed by Pollard Thomas Edwards, and owned and operated by a group of women over 50.

Is it demand or supply that’s holding back the development of alternative models of living?

I’d say it’s a bit of both, as residents and developers alike are naturally a little wary of the unknown. Of course, pioneering new models of housing is always going to be risky, but I think the demand is certainly there.

What have you been looking for as a judge of the 2022 Davidson Prize?

I really believe co-living can be a great solution to a lot of the problems facing people and cities all over the world – from the rising cost of living to the loneliness epidemic – so my focus has been on innovative ideas that can help make this form of living more attractive and accessible to a wider audience.