Livable coworking: cohousing cultures

Werkpalast Lichtenberg

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Honeck explained how cohousing responds to the needs of people living in this current moment. According to him, as high as 54% of housing in Berlin is currently comprised of residences of single persons, which is a figure standing at over 30% higher than the national average. Between 2002 and 2010 alone, that figure rose 5%. In 2010 only 16% of all Berlin households consisted of three or more people. As a response to this Honeck and LaFond wrote inCoHousing Cultures, “in these times of individualization, there is a growing demand for community.” Honeck also told Deskmag that cohousing specifically fills a deeper need in the individual that goes beyond passively being part ofsomething, but rather fulfills the need to work within a group, create something, and actively participate.

The trend of growing “individualization” is, of course, relevant all over the world. There are many different ways that cohousing has been able to offer solutions. For instance, in California’s Silicone Valley, Rainbow Mansion is a combination coworking and cohousing space that aims to bring intelligent and innovative people together. Currently seven people of various international origins live in the house who, “strive to change the world.” Events are hosted at Rainbow Mansion, including presentations and open discussions, and there is a bio lab and workshop as well.  Rainbow Mansion calls itself a commune, harkening back to the origins of such spaces, but a the same time the use of the term carries connotations of reinvention. 

Private Space vs. Community

In addition to fulfilling the basic need for community, Honeck points out the very important role cohousing plays in providing individuals with the equally necessary, yet somehow opposed, need for private space and time.The organizations that inhabitants are part of within the cohousing community should not be so demanding of participants so as to overwhelm them with responsibilities or consume too much of their time. These communities must be efficient and effective and also provide solutions to problems that the members will inevitably face. Without this balance, the goals of the cohousing community cannot be met. It is therefore important to talk both about private living quarters as well as the various community spaces that can be present when discussing and planning out this type of housing.

The Future of Cohousing and Coworking

Dr. LaFond said that as coworking is gaining momentum, we’re beginning to see more and more examples of the integration of coworking and cohousing spaces. Each can be seen as an extension of the other. “There’s a consciousness that’s emerging out of this need for, on the one hand, flexibility (so how they live and how they work) and also the idea of sharing infrastructure because it’s effective [and] there’s a community there.  You get exchange of ideas, they can support each other, they can work together, they can learn from each other. So, I’d expect to see more of that in projects in the coming years in Berlin and in other cities.”

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