In recent years, community living has been proposed as the ideal housing solution in inner city areas, providing high quality accommodation with a combination of communal and private living spaces to inspire and support thriving communities and tackle concerns about isolation and loneliness.
This year the importance of community, wellbeing and security have been brought to the fore. A sense of belonging and togetherness have been highlighted as key factors in maintaining healthy environments and wellbeing.
This month we talked to Chris Radcliffe MA, FCSD (below), head of interior design at Maber, an architecture and urban design practice, about these emerging issues for the community living sector.
Karndean: Over the last couple of years we have witnessed an expansion of the community living model, offering flexible and adaptable housing for both young professionals and the active retired. Nobody could deny the obvious benefits for balancing high quality housing with the space restrictions of urban areas or to cater for the evolving needs of an expanding older population. However, the Covid-19 crisis has not only highlighted the benefits of social connections but also the potentially conflicting need to provide suitable layouts for infection control and personal safety during periods of self-isolation. How do you think modern living and accommodation developments in the future will be shaped by the current crisis?
Chris: People have realised the need for personal safety and for interiors that enable them to protect themselves and their loved ones. The pandemic is likely to result in longer term awareness of and concern for health issues and so people will demand flexible housing that can more easily cater for such situations. The community living model will need to carefully consider how co-living can reap the benefits of connectivity whilst also protecting individuals.
Karndean: Once the pandemic is brought under control and we all settle into a ‘new normal’, do you think this frustration can be directed in a positive way and how do you envisage that the community living model will respond?
Chris: There is a risk we might see more division and inequality. For those that can afford it, community living developments can offer secure gated communities with safety related systems such as CCTV and trained personnel to care for an ageing population, situated in prime city centre locations with access to sports, the arts, education, leisure, health, food and beverage facilities. For those who cannot afford it, life will go back to the ‘old normal’ and they will take their chances just like they always have done.
Karndean: The physical and mental wellbeing of the occupant has become more of a priority than ever before and we are seeing thoughtful designs that focus on comfort and belonging, connecting the interior with the natural world outside. How do you see wellbeing being factored into the development of a building?
Chris: Wellbeing is a word loaded with preconceived ideals. Being well. Understanding what causes health is pertinent during these challenging times, because the effects on our physical and mental health, of keeping apart, of isolation, of face-to-faceless communications all have subliminal repercussions concerning our wellbeing, wellness and mental good health. We should be mindful of what causes us happiness as opposed to what causes sadness. It is easy to say” adopt a positive attitude” but what’s the alternative? To paraphrase: “no person is an island”. We are in this together, again.
Karndean: As a designer, do you think the main priorities for the occupant when designing living environments have altered and how do you see this changing how housing is developed going forward?
Chris: I believe the focus will be on living pleasurably and being globally conscious, so I believe we will see an increasing use of appropriate materials which provide value, quality and longevity so that interiors can be healthy, sustainable and environmentally right.
Karndean: The current crisis has certainly highlighted the importance of health and infection control both in our public spaces and at home. Do you expect the Covid-19 experience to lead to a long-standing concern for hygiene factors and the need to keep spaces clean, particularly in shared spaces?
Chris: Designers will need to keep hygiene at the very front of their designs and create interiors that are visibly safe and offer all the protection that people need and demand. If this isn’t clearly provided, people will just go somewhere else. They will simply vote with their feet and their wallets/purses.
Karndean: During the lockdown we have all learnt to live differently. We have seen fewer cars on the roads, and it seems everyone is turning their gardens into mini allotments or going back to ‘basics’ and making things from scratch. Meanwhile, we are relying on modern technology more than ever to keep industry going and people connected to the outside world. How do you foresee these lifestyle changes will impact on the housing industry?
Chris: Industry has to adapt to the needs of its customers. The alternative is as said previously, they will go elsewhere. Loyalty will be key, but that will be two-way traffic and building loyalty takes time. Those in industry that have demonstrated honour in the face of adversity in recent months will find favour with existing and new customers and this will stand them in good stead for the future.
Thank you so much to Chris for taking the time to talk to us. We look forward to seeing more of his innovative commercial interior designs. You can find out more about Chris’s work at Maber.co.uk.
Visit our community living hub and see how flexible flooring can bring communities together.