On Wednesday morning at Design Miami/, Whitewall hosted a series of talks in partnership with Lexus. The first was entitled “New Design, New Spaces, New Cities, and a New Way of Living and Working,” featuring founder of wHY architecture, Kulapat Yantrasast; Kara Mann, interior designer; Roy Alpert, Founder of RAP; and Don Copper, Managing Principal of GREC.
The way we live, work, and play has drastically changed over the years. The ideas of a typical day job, a house in the suburbs, and a daily commute have more or less disappeared. With that in mind, the panel of experts behind various design methods and techniques discussed new ways and ideas of how co-working, co-living, and co-existing is the future.
The conversation began with a discussion on the biggest changes and challenges we are seeing in how we live and work today.
“There’s a much larger desire, particularly in my generation, for accessibility and flexibility,” said Alpert. “More often, people are living with roommates for not just 2 years; now it’s 15. There’s currently about 65 million Americans living with roommates. It’s about 40 percent up just over the past 20 years. I don’t think the housing product offer is reflective of that change. So, when you think about the product for that mindset, does it really make sense for them to own furniture? Do they have to commit to a one-year lease? Find roommates and figure out how to navigate all that?”
Copper chimed in with an idea he’s working on with his firm in Chicago, where a mixed-use building for both residential and commercial tenants share amenities to build a new type of community living.
“The line between working and living is becoming a bit blurred,” said Copper. “And the definition to where you work and how you work is expanding and being redefined…or perhaps undefined. We have a project in Portland that we’re really excited about, which is a mixed use building with four levels of office space with eleven stories of apartments above. And the residents and the commercial tenants all share the amenities—the lobby, the fitness center, the conference center, and the outdoor recreational space. That sort of breaks down the boundary between residential and commercial working space. For us, that’s super exciting because it starts opening up new possibilities of how a building can be configured.”
Configuring a building from the beginning is a new and unique first step but building a shared space can go beyond just the structure. As we’re seeing in new types of programming, is extended and exemplified by communal spaces and the engagement of its occupants.
“There’s always private space, public space, and communal space in a whole environment,” said Mann. “And I think that idea of communal space is really going to amplify with the idea of kitchen being the hub of the home. That’s kind of filtered into commercial spaces, as well, with restaurants that now have these open kitchens. And that’s filtered into work places. It’s all becoming much more communal.”
To add, Yantrasast spoke about how he lived in Japan for 10 years and how, there, amenities were shared due to necessity; it was not for novelty. Not everyone had the luxury of having their own shower or electricity, so members of the village gathered to help each other, showering and cooking together. He also mentioned that designing for permanence today is different than that of the past.
“There are amazing conversions of industrial buildings into things like lofts and Apple stores, so people from previous generations decided something had a sense of gravitas. It might not fully have the same programming when you convert it because this is the DNA of the building. But I think, as a designer, our bodies still look the same. We have a scale, we have dimension, we have experiences, and the spaces, designed with that in mind, have a longer way of living,” said Yantrasast. “It’s our motto that if architecture has power, it should have power to connect people now. People are more isolated, and a sharing community is one way to get people together on that empathy aspect that we need to somehow bring into the world.”