The Collective is Not a New Way of Living – It’s an Old One, Commodified

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The Collective is Not a New Way of Living – It’s an Old One, Commodified

Sold to Generation Yers as “curated communities”, London’s The Collective Old Oak is a pricey copy of 1930s modernist projects, stripped of their social agendas.

It has been hard to miss the relentless PR campaign that has been ‘co-living’ this year – one we’re told will solve the housing crisis in London and recently evangelized by Patrik Schumacher at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin. For those missing the fanfare, co-living is the housing equivalent of co-working, aimed at solvent, yet asset poor, young professionals. It rests on a premise that Generation Y’ers are predominantly single, want flexibility, convenience, and value authentic ‘experiences’ over material possessions.

Spatially, this plays out with an emphasis on communal spaces – the kitchen, living room – at the expense of private space, seen as a mere place to sleep. At its most elaborate, the communal space can include a plethora of restaurants, tearoom, bars, work spaces, laundries, roof terraces, fitness rooms and building apps to book events. And it’s a concept that’s gaining traction. Co-living, as this latest and marketable housing mode, now exists in many of our major cities; typically those with acute housing shortages. The first to dramatically scale this up – and self proclaimed co-living pioneers – have been developers The Collective Partners LLP with their The Collective Old Oak in Willesden, North West London. A self-contained behemoth, The Collective Old Oak hosts 400 co-working spaces and 546 bedrooms, varying from studios to standard en-suites, at an average cost starting £1040 per month.

Yet it’s the 930m2 of communal space that apparently separate it from high-end student halls or generic luxury flats in the city. Here, young residents can enjoy “shared kitchens and lounges on every floor, communal entertainment spaces and luxury facilities including a gym, spa, cinema room, library, restaurant, bar, curated retail outlets, events spaces, roof terraces and more.” At Collective Old Oak you don’t live in an apartment block but a “curated community” – the catchall term curation used to describe how residents are chosen to the multiple events aimed at connecting people. These can range from mindfulness and meditation to networking events, business talks, workshops, film nights and live music. […]