Picnic Design Shares Learning from Co-Living Concept from IDS20

Picnic Design is a Toronto-based architecture firm led by founding principals Joanne Lam, (OAA, LEED AP) and Eric Martin (AOCAD Env. Design, BCIN). Informed by the belief that
urban design, architecture and interior design are part of an integrated discipline. Their design approach is continually inspired by their experiences travelling and working in other parts of the world and by the challenges and opportunities that arise in the day-to-day at home, at work and sometimes in the places in between.

You participated as a design firm at IDS20, where you hosted an interactive exhibit around Co-Living. What were your findings?

Our Dare to Share installation at IDS20 received an overwhelming response. We asked participants to tell us what spaces in a house they would dare to share with others. 

Some spaces, such as the backyard, are admittedly easier to share than others. Not surprisingly, the bathroom proved to be the least popular. Living room, family room, rec room are also spaces where people can imagine socializing with others. 

As for personal items, books are very shareable but people hold their fine China close to their hearts. So many people wanted to participate that we kept running out of yes/no stickers.

Beyond the survey, we had many wonderful conversations as we walked people through the various prototypes. It was illuminating to hear the frank responses and reactions. They ranged from “maybe later” to “I need this” to “are you selling this?” Mostly, we were encouraged by the level of interest in the possibilities of co-living. It reaffirmed our instinct that co-living is a viable option for how we live.

How do you anticipate Co-Living might shift post Covid-19?

Covid-19 has drastically changed our perspectives on our lives and forced us to examine our world in micro detail. In the past few months, we have been living, working, and playing within our homes. Regardless of house size, we all feel cooped up and isolated. Now imagine if we had been co-living. The house’s size would remain the same, but we would have been in a bubble with others already. 

Whether it be seniors, working parents, or single adults, there would always be a helping hand. We see co-living playing a big part in combatting that sense of isolation with an established built-in community. No doubt, there would be times when we would want to be alone or with one other person only. The design of the spaces need to be carefully considered to accommodate and encourage different types of interactions. 

Additionally, we need the space to serve different functions throughout the day: From playroom to office, from yoga studio to family room, the flexibility of each space needs to be designed, rather than thrown together. In our prototypes, we have started introducing different scales of spaces and transformable spaces, but Covid-19 has brought these two needs into sharp focus.

Can co-living play a part in the sustainability of future cities?

Changes to our cities are inevitable after Covid-19. How and how fast that happens will define our generation. Due to the pandemic, the backlash against the density of cities has already started. However, it would be simplistic to think that everyone moving to a rural setting would be the cure-all. Our cities need the density to be sustainable, to remain active, vibrant, and to continue functioning as economic engines. However, they also need to be designed, so we have the right kind of space to be healthy, physically and mentally. Co-living is a part of a set of strategies that will play a role in the future of cities by offering a way of sharing spaces that combines density with a built-in community. Because co-living spaces are designed, there would be a careful balance between indoor and outdoor space, and personal and shared space. By having each household acting as a community, it becomes more resilient and nimble.

Picnic Design will be taking over our Instagram this Friday, June 12. Stay tuned.

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