Chiara Del Core 14 mar 2019 Articles 0 comments

1. Shared living: solutions for social development.

How social change affects housing models

In recent years, the "housing question" has been at the center of many debates in which we have focused on the reinterpretation of the term "living".
Economic and social policies have seen representatives of the government and administrations concentrate on the issue in order to provide satisfactory answers. The primary objective was to ensure, in shared social housing, the same quality as traditional housing models on the market.
Starting from 1960, the new reality of cohabitation made its way into Denmark, which met with growing success, until today, a period in which the flexibility and temporariness of the residence are characteristics of primary importance. Therefore, a concept of living that declines towards different nuances: the hybridization of spaces, the connection and sharing of resources, social commitment, group activities and participatory decision-making processes.
Furthermore, due to today's socio-economic situation, there has been a rapid transition from permanence to the transitory nature of living. There is an increasing habit of conceiving space in a changing way and the uses associated with it differ according to contingencies. Flexibility thus becomes a fundamental requirement of this type of home and is affirmed in the typology (wide and varied offer) and in the technology (substitutability, adaptability of components) applied to it.
The changes of a social nature correspond to the change in the relationship between spaces, people and inhabitants so that environments that until yesterday had a precise function and were lived according to the scans of time, today become places of passage with an undifferentiated function. The articulation of the basic schemes of living follows the changes in the life experience of the individual subject thus making the architectural discipline unstable and constantly changing. This concept, which is becoming increasingly popular today, does not allow designers to follow a pre-established model but enables them to prepare a housing program that can take on different shades depending on the case.
Among the phenomena that have caused these changes, there are also globalization and sustainability. The first led to a contraction of time and an expansion of space, with consequently faster rhythms and changes in daily habits. Sustainability, on the other hand, has confronted users and designers with the problem of limiting consumption and saving energy.

2. Ergo sum cohabitation: inter-family realities compared

Now let's see how social changes and urban transformations have pushed users to search for housing models different from the traditional ones: these are life solutions that tend to reconcile the public dimension of the community with the private dimension of the individual.

Here are some examples:

•  Common
Residential communities of people who share both spaces and life choices.

•  Solidarity condominiums
They do not presuppose cohabitation but cooperation between independent families that share activities and values.

•  Territorial communities
It is a larger reality, not necessarily linked to a shared residential building, but to entire neighborhoods in which the inhabitants create social networks and solidarity.

•  Ecovillages
Usually they arise in rural areas, their inhabitants choose resources, food, care for children and aspire to a return to nature and a healthy life.

•  Cohousing
Communities of people open and free from ideological or religious ties, in which private and common spaces coexist. The groups organize through participatory planning, the identification of collective services and the management of internal activities.

•  Social housing
Forms of facilitated residence within which residents establish social and collaborative relationships. Nowadays, social housing is changing its original connotation, affecting not only the weaker sections of society but also people belonging to various age groups united by the interest in developing sociality and supporting choices based on economic and environmental sustainability.

3. Cohousing and social housing: common characteristics and differences 

As regards specifically cohousing and social housing, these are residential models that aspire to provide users with "additional" spaces that can be exploited in the most varied ways to create sociality and utility.
These are two very similar housing situations but different in some respects, which are often confused. For both, the idea of ​​sharing lies at the base: the choice to de-sacrice private space in the apartments in favor of common areas that encourage socialization. However, some aspects are different: cohousing is a smaller reality, born from private projects of a few people who often know each other and share values ​​and daily habits. Social housing, on the other hand, arises from purely economic needs, offers housing at controlled prices and develops with the support of medium-large sized associations and foundations. Localization also distinguishes the two realities, in fact social housing all arise in a more or less dense urban environment, while cohousing can develop in the city and also in extra-urban contexts.
From the point of view of the design process, the two realities differ in some aspects, first of all the level of "participation" of future users: cohousing places among its five fundamental points, the participatory process that sees the cohabitants in an equal position and active in the choices and decisions for the organization of cohousing.
The situation of social housing is different, where specially trained professionals proceed with the design, placing at the base the interest in satisfying the needs of users who, however, cannot participate in the preliminary phase.

As for the spatial conformation, it manifests itself as the mirror of the users' needs: while the private apartments are small, the common open areas and closed collective environments that host additional services (gyms, playrooms, laundries , taverns, common kitchens, relaxation rooms ..) and which favor individual savings and greater socialization.

4. Cohousing: a possible alternative of urban life

There are various types of family realities and they all have a common prerogative: to define "being a family" is the feeling of familiarity not necessarily limited to the regulated social sphere.
The term cohousing from the English "community housing" asserts itself as a housing reality with the aim of solving the problem of social cohesion and the recovery of community life. Although cohousing experiences do not follow strict rules, there are some characteristics that European, American and Australian cohousing have in common.
First of all, the participation and intentional planning that the future residents see from the very first moments of the design process in the common choice of the place to live, in the organization, and in the management of spaces.
At the base there is an agerarchical structure in which decisions are taken in a collegial way, excluding the figure of the leader.
As for the architectural style, similar to most of the cohousing, it includes houses or single-family apartments, usually located along a common road or around a central courtyard. Fundamental importance is given to the common spaces that occupy a large part of the designed space, integrate the private apartments and are favored over them.
The common services ensure social and economic advantages, in fact even if usually the initial cost of building a cohousing is higher than that of a traditional home, in a second moment the user will begin to notice the considerable economic savings thanks to the use of common goods (computers, sports and gardening tools, cars, bicycles, etc.) and choices for energy saving.

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