Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Interior Design

First Advisor

Roberto Ventura

Second Advisor

Sara Reed



Concurrent issues of social isolation and loneliness have long been recognized as problems that affect seniors but it is also being proven to affect young people as well, specifically with the rise of new technologies and a perception of connectedness. Co-living provides one alternative design solution to traditional housing models which can unlock a range of social benefits.


Loneliness is an unfortunate reality of modern life and it is something that most people experience at least once in their life (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008). A study carried out by Berguno, Leroux McAinsh, Shaikh (2004), showed that 80% of young people and over 40% of adults over the age of 65 experienced loneliness in the course of life. Good housing plays an important role in building community and strengthening social interaction and bonding. Co-living is a residential structure that accommodates three or more biologically unrelated people (Bothell, 2015; Tummers, 2015). It is commonly contained within a single dwelling, sub-divided into a combination of public and private spaces (Scott-Hanson & Scott-Hanson, 2005). Co-housing, community living, or co-living in particular may be one possible solution for the endemic loneliness and social isolation challenges that we face.


In many American cities, traditional housing forms are not meeting those needs and as our population increases, it is crucial to find replicable and sustainable methods of creating an inclusive urban fabric that meets the social and physical needs of all inhabitants (Darling, 2017). It is increasingly clear that there is a lack of understanding of the realities of co-living spaces and that this limits the application of the co-living model. While co-housing has traditionally been established in rural or suburban contexts, there are benefits to urban co-living (Kim, 2017). To experience the full ecological, economical and most importantly social benefits of urban co-living, research must be performed to understand how residents share, experience, and inhabit space.


This project will respond by applying design thinking, a human centered design approach, and collaborative exploration methods to produce case studies for an urban co-living development in the US. Workshops, observations, literature reviews, and interviews will build a foundation of contemporary knowledge. Key themes identified in the literature on social isolation and loneliness will be used to inform a discussion on the potential for housing to help alleviate these problems. There will also be a rigorous case study analysis of recent precedents emerging in the field of collective housing.


The design of a flexible living space that explores isolation and connection at the scale of the individual and the collective in an existing building is an overarching goal of the design. It offers future users and designers the opportunity to learn and experiment towards a better understanding of how residents use space as well as examining loneliness and isolation as it relates to a design solution.


The success of the project, and its theoretical outcome, will show the role design can play in contemporary research, positive change, and sustainable development. The result will have implications for co-living providers, researchers, and designers supporting sustainable lifestyle alternatives.


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