Coliving, Copresence and Conversation

The pursuit of social integration is a concept that has often driven architectural and urban design; for example, in 2020, New London Architecture initiated ‘community’ and ‘wellbeing’ programmes promoting research and best practice in the design of flourishing community spaces. It is through the routine activities of everyday life that individuals encounter each other in the situated contexts that are central to forming social organisations. A fundamental precondition for in-person communication is the need for at least two people to be simultaneously present in the same space. This least taxing – and most distinguishable – form of social interactions is defined as ‘co-presence’.

In recent times, urban Coliving has raised the demand for housing with shared facilities in major cities across the world. It is a new shared living typology targeted at Millennials, who are reported to be markedly lonely and far less trusting of other people than previous generational cohorts. With research showing that social isolation indicators are closely associated with loneliness, we ask “to what extent does the spatial organisation of coliving communities influence instances of co-presence, and encourage interaction, between residents?”

In a previous study, two space syntax methods – namely, ‘small-graph matching’ and ‘inequality genotypes’ – were used to determine levels of ‘integration/segregation’ in the spatial layouts of various coliving buildings to understand which offered the highest and lowest probability for co-presence to occur amongst inhabitants. This enabled the existing study to employ Bluetooth (BLE) beacon technology, notational analysis and semi-structured interviews to investigate where, why and how often residents interact with each other and with space and also interrogate coliving operator assertions that their spaces promote a sense of community amongst residents.