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The case for live work building Work Design Magazine Design

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that the way we occupy our spaces needs to be reconsidered. Could residential-work buildings be the future?

Live work NYC
Soho, NYC

Traditionally, people lived where they worked. Examples of this are the American highways, the British highways, and the machiya in Japan, which allowed a store, shop, or workshop to look to the street with living quarters across or behind the street. With the option of transforming the shop front into a private living space, the Machiya is considered the forerunner of the contemporary Flex-Space. Another example is the “top shop” model, first introduced in Paris in the 17th and 18th centuries, where workshops were found on the top level of houses. These attics had large windows and skylights to give workers plenty of natural light, while living quarters were on the floors below.

For a period of about 100 years, the live work model disappeared when city planners addressed issues such as congestion, air pollution and poor sanitation caused by the industrial revolution in different zones of a city. Working from home or living at work became illegal in many cases. In some places, such as New York City, the laws didn’t begin to change until the 1970s, as evidenced by the change in the city’s “Common Work and Work Spaces for Artists” zoning.

live-work UK
Coventry, England factory with housing below

The impact of disease and COVD-19 on architecture

Throughout history, the built environment has changed in response to mental and physical responses to illness. The architecture of retrofitting buildings for health and hygiene also has a long tradition. For example, in New York City in 1832, a cholera outbreak caused by a lack of clean water killed 5,000 people in three months. In response, within five years, work began on the Croton Aqueduct as part of a complex regional system to provide enough water for indoor installation – a luxury unprecedented before that time.

America’s first tuberculosis sanatorium opened in 1885 on Saranac Lake, New York, where patients were asked to sit in wide, glass-enclosed “verandas” for natural light and fresh air. From then on, the idea of ​​a sleeping veranda or winter garden became part of the architectural vocabulary of residential buildings. As another example, as the pollution problems caused by the industrial revolution set in, local governments began to introduce strict zoning laws that separated living and working spaces. This fundamentally changed the way society developed as more and more people commuted to work.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear today that the way we occupy our spaces needs to be reconsidered as many work from home.

Live work blueprint

Design options

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a large percentage of the professional population to work from home, many have realized that setting up a remote office can be a long-term option. The sudden transition has proven surprisingly positive, but it is far from perfect. The nuances with which living and working spaces work best are undeveloped. Difficulties include lack of space for all family members, lack of proper utilities and storage, and less human interaction. The current challenge is to address these shortcomings while preserving the benefits that live work can offer.

For residents, a living and work area offers the opportunity to improve their work-life balance by creating clearly defined areas in which work and home are separated within the larger space. It also reduces commuting times and costs, can help with fairly shared household chores, and gives family members the flexibility to be at home during business hours.

For home builders, renovations can be an opportunity to attract new tenants looking for contemporary amenities. For developers of new real estate, live work options can add value to the unit types and round off the development offer. By providing a mix of residential and commercial units, developers can attract a wider range of potential tenants looking for different uses for their space. For municipalities and municipalities, the “live work” option enables neighborhoods to become livelier and safer as areas with live work are busy and activated both during the day and at night.

Prototype live work

A prototype

We investigated what a prototype for a new living-working unit could look like by designing a building that includes storefronts on the ground floor, maisonette apartments with semi-private workspaces and separate offices for residents.

To provide a range of options that would be attractive to tenants, three different types of working arrangements are proposed. There is commercial space on the ground floor that is similar to what you find in many buildings today. This model provides effortless access to businesses that tenants live above and allows business owners to live above their storefront while living in a separate unit. The next model is a rear-facing flex room in each duplex unit that can be used as a quasi-independent office within the house. Many city dwellers faced the challenge of space and resorted to their duel in the kitchen or in the bedroom as an office. By providing flexible space for an office, it can be easily closed during working hours and opened when not in use to create additional living space. The final model offers separate offices on the floors of the building that can either be used by the residents of the building or by other users. This office space can serve as the newest version in coworking spaces and be used by tenants as a new amenity or rented out to people who need temporary office space outside their home.

In order to support a strong community within the building, a relaxation room on the roof terrace is proposed, which can be used by both local residents and commercial tenants of the building.

Plan for relaxation space with a rooftop terrace

view in the future

Cities will face very difficult challenges in the coming years. Rooms that seemed appropriate prior to the COVID-19 pandemic are no longer functioning properly. The building lobby, office, restaurant, grocery store, apartment and even our green spaces require more permanent measures of separation and cleanliness. All of this must be done at great speed and with very limited budgets. Despite the zoning hurdles, now is the time to explore live work options. By starting conversations between people like builders, developers and local governments, we can begin building stronger communities and innovating the way our cities are built.

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