Domestic Conflicts: Collective Living in London

Ilias Oikonomakis:

The research deals with the housing problem in London and its social, political and economic origins and consequences. One of the consequences is the common phenomenon of house sharing due to high rental prices. Although house sharing is the starting point for the search of new housing typologies, the purpose is not to increase its viability, but to delineate a shift to collective living as the most efficient and affordable way to accommodate a large number of people. The shift from house sharing to collective living is not new. It appears, most importantly, with historical transformations of domestic space. The most significant cases are the cooperative housekeeping movement in England from the 1840s to the 1920s and the communal living projects in the Soviet Union from the 1910s to the 1930s. In both cases, overcrowded shared houses caused an informal collective living. Efforts to formalise collective living then led to new typologies of domestic space. Arguably, collective living emerges at historical moments of housing crisis and economic oppression from domestic coexistence found in house sharing. This historical tendency and its possibility in metropolitan London is the motivation of this dissertation to revisit collective living as a design problem.

Collective living is not a stable but dynamic form of living; it is a procedure and a tendency. Its ambition is to create a common life between inhabitants through the collectivisation of domestic tasks and activities. Domestic labour becomes not an individual but a collective responsibility. This research explores how this will affect domestic life. It searches for housing typologies capable of supporting this transformation, and questions the urban role of collective housing by asking how domestic collective space can extend into the urban.

This requires first of all a clarification of the meaning and history of collective living. In this way, the research becomes a reinterpretation and re-conceptualisation of collective living in the present context. Its mutated common meaning is opposed by proposing a re-evaluation of its original economic, social and political ambitions.

Church Lane, Ground Floor, Wood engraving, 1850;
Overcrowded apartment, in Hong Kong, photo by Michael Wolf.
Hector Gavin, “Lodging House in Field Lane,” from ‘Sanitary Ramblings’, 1848
The Cooperative Housekeeping Movement in the United Kingdom, Case studies timeline
Cooperative Home For Mrs E. M. King, Analytical diagrams
Comparative analysis of rooms in USSR’s collective housing schemes
Dom-komuna in Moscow 1929, analytic diagrams
Combined timeline of UK and USSR case studies

Design Proposals: Schematic Plans
Design A and B. Site Plan
Desing A, Ground Floor
Design A, Typical Plan
Design A and B Design A and B, Exploded Axos
Design A, View of the units from the atrium Design A, Living Units
DeDesign A, Domestic Coexistence, Typical Plan of housing for professionals
Design B, Typical Plan
Design B, Living Units
Design B, Axo and view of the collective space
DeDesign C, Plans and diagram of the gradual formation of multigenerational collective space
Design C, Typical Plan and expansion of the urban paradigm

Read the whole dissertation

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