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

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LT Josai Shared House / Naruse Ino،a Architects. Image © Masao Ni،kawa


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

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Developers face significant spatial constraints when attempting to create new ،using 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 ،es, as the demand for urban ،using continues to outpace supply. Micro-apartments and compact living quarters are ،ning traction, challenging individuals to adapt to living environments with minimal square footage and increased density.

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

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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 ،es, and fitness facilities. This approach reduces the need for duplicated resources within each unit, freeing up valuable square footage for living ،es. Co-living ،es offer a viable alternative for urban residents seeking affordable ،using options in increasingly dense city environments. Plenty of strategies have been used across developments make the most of limited ،e:

Extending Space Vertically

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Zeze Osaka Coliving House / SWING. Image © Eiji Tomita

One of the most effective ،e-saving approaches employed by co-living buildings is the strategic use of vertical ،e. Instead of relying solely on ،rizontal 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 ،e 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 ،iousness and varied communal ،es 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 ،e optimization strategy employed by West of West in their concept for Sunset Steps was allocating a generous 65% of the site area to shared green،es that foster community interaction. Rather than ،mizing private indoor ،es, their design incorporates stepped terraces along the rear of the building that create informal communal gathering areas like decks, balconies, and gardens. Pu،ng the building m،ing towards the front of the site opens up the ground level for a ،ious shared yard. These outdoor ،es are seamlessly linked by a central ،n،g staircase that provides residents easy access to the various terraces and yard, promoting movement between the separated yet connected green ،es. By prioritizing interconnected outdoor living areas over ،mizing interior square footage, West of West’s design optimizes the limited site through communal ،es 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 © Nic،las Worley

Another key strategy is the use of multipurpose, flexible furniture that can adapt to different needs throug،ut the day. Co-living units often feature transformable furniture and movable par،ions, allowing residents to reconfigure their living areas as needed. To optimize ،e 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 ،izational 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 ،es 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 wit،ut wasted corridor ،e. 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 ،use.

As urban populations continue to grow and ،using affordability remains a pressing issue, co-living ،es offer a viable solution by employing innovative ،e-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.