Design is all about solving problems, and few problems are as pressing as the changing demands on domestic space. But while rising prices and scarce building sites pose a serious challenge, shifting demographics are also putting new pressures on how we live.
One solution comes from the earliest days of human habitation, a way of living that still endures in many parts of the modern world. The multigenerational home makes sense on a number of levels; by bringing different generations the same family together, it promotes togetherness, eases the complexities of childcare, saves natural resources and – done correctly – results in dynamic, flexible spaces that favour both privacy and unity. Here is a selection of adventurous takes on the conventional home.
Caring Wood, UK
Designed by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell
James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell of the Rural Office for Architecture collaborated on this impressive new house in Kent. Caring Wood is set amid 84 acres and presented a rare architectural opportunity. Intended as four homes in one, it was commissioned by clients who wanted generous living space for their three daughters and their families, without compromising personal space or design quality. Together, Macdonald Wright and Maxwell dug into the county’s vernacular, creating a chestnut tile-clad structure rooted in its site, signposted by four towers that evoke the famous oast houses of the region’s hop farms, with each dwelling arranged around a central courtyard and communal space.
‘Caring Wood is very much a design exercise in spatial independence and interdependence,’ Maxwell told us, when the project scooped the RIBA House of the Year award in 2017. ‘The house can be seen as a series of layers offering different levels of privacy for family members.’ Craftsmanship and exceptional attention to detail make this low-carbon residence a model dwelling for multigenerational rural living. Macdonaldwright.com, www.ruralofficeforarchitecture.co.uk
Villa M, Os, Norway
Designed by Todd Saunders
Set in the spectacular landscape of Vågadalen, near Os in Norway, this waterfront home is perched on a high cliff. Norway’s climate allows for outdoor living part of the year, and Villa M is designed to encircle its sizeable terrace, sheltering it from the wind. The project is an extension to an existing house and includes a new library of 100 square metres. What sets this house apart is the amount of space given over to the owners’ children and grandchildren. Six bedrooms are arranged in the basement, in addition to the master bedroom above, letting the extended family enjoy a retreat together. Saunders Architecture’s characteristic aesthetic combines timber cladding and strong geometric planning, paring back visual distractions to focus on the surrounding landscape. Saunders.no
Copper Lane, London
Designed by Henley Halebrown
When it was completed in 2014, the architects hailed this project as one of London’s first ‘co-living’ schemes. Going beyond the merely multi-generational, Copper Lane was a long-drawn-out project that arose from collaboration, intensive design work and the shared goals of a likeminded collective of clients who wanted a new approach to London living.
Making the most of a backland site in North London, the households pooled their resources to come up with a complex that features shared residential facilities like laundry, storage areas and communal social spaces both inside and out. The result is like a compact village, with an eclectic mix of residential structures unified by a simple materials palette and a commitment to quality throughout. Henleyhalebrown.com
Villa, Oosterzele, Belgium
Designed by Govaert & Vanhoutte Architects
The Bruges-based architecture studio of Govaert & Vanhoutte collaborated with contemporary housebuilders ABS Bouwteam to create this new villa, which is an exploration of changing multi-family needs. Created for an extended family that works for the building company, the villa is subdivided into three living spaces – two flexible lofts for the grown-up children and a penthouse space for their parents, with a basement level connection to the adjoining house and office, also occupied by the extended family. The multigenerational home is fully future-proofed, with an integrated lift as well as ultra-low energy consumption, while the architects have imbued every surface with a white-walled minimalism. www.govaert-vanhoutte.be, Absbouwteam.be
House for 4 Generations, Tokyo
Designed by Tomomi Kito Architect & Associates
Space is at a premium in the Tokyo housing market, and the existing cultural acceptance of multi-generational living further restricts the amount of room available in a typical family home. Tomomi Kito’s reworking of an existing house aims to solve the problems of living space by removing many of the existing column and walls to make a generous communal area, alongside smaller and more private bedroom spaces for a family unit that spans over four generations.
This is a multigenerational house about warmth and togetherness, with the extensive use of traditionally-crafted timber in both structure and fittings, softening the spaces and reducing the inevitable noise and clamour of co-habitation. Tomomikito.com
Bridge House, Virginia, USA
Höweler + Yoon Architecture
Despite the luxury of an expansive wooded site and an ample floor plan, the Bridge House still conceals its multi-generational internal layout with a strong, unified façade. Three tiers of the same family call this home, with a private ground floor suite for the grandparents set alongside a collective area, including kitchen and dining space. Above these, on the ‘bridge’, is accommodation for two more generations, the parents, their grown-up children and grandchildren.
This structural arrangement creates a distinct sense of physical separation – the grandchildren occupy the central ‘span’ of the bridge – allowing the family to come together on the ground floor for meals. www.howeleryoon.com