The humane co house
The Humane Co-house design-led research project presents a new typology for shared medium-density housing sited in a city-fringe Wellington suburb. The research argues communal living can be utilised to achieve smaller dwellings, a high medium-density grain, a humane living environment and a new form of social interaction that home buyers will find desirable. Buying a home is difficult throughout New Zealand and Wellington is no exception. Inner-city apartment blocks lack individuality, space for growing families and a sense of community and autonomy. While research shows houses in outer suburbs are perceived to provide these, they come at a high price and there are low amounts of available stock. There is potential for city-fringe suburbs adjacent to the inner city to accommodate more dwellings, creating available housing stock that is appealing to buyers who would otherwise be looking at expensive suburban houses. The research begins with the current attitudes and preferences within the New Zealand housing context, and suggests that the appeal of the traditional detached suburban house is intertwined with a desired balance of private space to common space. The research designs and develops a new typology that attempts to achieve this balance, but with smaller dwellings at a high medium-density. Through design-led research an architectural definition and manifestation of a humane dwelling is formed. This focuses on a balance of private space and common space. Qualities of common and private spaces within a dwelling are explored through literature and design tests. Evaluation of design case studies produced from research, tests and iterations draws conclusions about how communal living can be utilised by different demographics to achieve a new type of social interaction, and a basic level of affordability that will resonate in the current context. The final design case study was critically reflected upon in terms of a theoretical client that over time might transition through three demographic groups – a working young person or couple, a family and a retired person or couple. In this way the design case study produced was considered as a flexible and long-term dwelling, resulting in a humane and appealing home for occupants at different stages of life.