Sunday, February 15, 2015

A highrise of co-ops

With highrise apartments being common, why I don't live in one?  Well, #1) I can't afford to and #2) with most condos being 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom units, there are no options on the market that offer communal living.

The sketches below are an idea that blends communal living (loosely based on Loth in Berkeley) and stacks several communities in a single building.  Compared to a regular tower, there are twice the number of bedrooms, half the per-bedroom cost, and lots of spaces for social interaction.  To address the management issues previous high rise communities of this type faced, this design separates the building into individual communities of 50-90 people: small enough to know everyone, large enough to keep things lively.   One of these 2 to 3 story communities could also be made by remodeling a few floors of an office building.

When a region's most beloved streets are done in a quirky Victorian or Craftsperson style, shouldn't its biggest buildings also be something other than a glass box? 

Click images to enlarge

Design is based on Loth and also previous Victorian highrise design used in the Hanging Gardens of San Francisco story.

Can it work?
This is a rare but not unprecedented building type.  The first batch were built in the 1960s. 

Anhua Lou, Beijing, China - an urban commune built in the 1960s, had a single dining hall for several hundred people.  The common spaces were later divided into regular apartments a changing society led to de-collectivization of living arrangements. 
Rochdale College, Toronto, Canada - built in the 1960s as student housing, this 18-story building had management problems that led to a high vacancy rate.   It was converted into regular apartments in the late 1970s. 

In the last decade, this idea has returned.  Learning from past mistakes, these new communities divide the building into several communities of manageable size.  In addition, the market has changed.  Whereas in the mid 20th century, massive investment in public housing and new suburbs kept housing costs low elsewhere, today, the housing market lacks supply in most desirable cities.  The green movement has also given living small mainstream appeal.  Finally, a rising age of marriage and childbirth means a longer segment of time living single. 

As a result, communal living is no longer just for young hippies or a last resort for the urban poor, it now appeals to a large section of the middle class, and has the potential to take on the attributes of middle class housing: socially acceptable, easy to finance, and boring in a good way. 

Super Co-op, Austin, Texas - a student housing cooperative, built in the 2000s, that has 3 stacked communities.
1532 Harrison, San Francisco - a proposed CoLiving project in San Francisco's SOMA district.


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