Dwelling in time: Studies on life course spatial adaptability
Doctoral thesis, 2019
The ongoing demographic transformation entails profound changes in population structures and implies constantly renewed needs and requests for different apartment space configurations. This challenges the field of design and calls for more adequate apartment solutions for a sustainable urban future. However, current design does not meet this challenge. Rather it imposes a conventional attitude as furthermore the housing market, dominated by a commercialized lifestyle focus, appears to ignore the question of long-term resilience. This dictates conditions for residential quality of life, in particular regarding issues of social sustainability, as households often lack the possibility to adapt their homes according to every day needs and long-term life project aspirations. The situation calls for an urgent future realization of a more resilient housing stock.
The thesis addresses the issue of adaptable apartment space and how this can respond to the household’s changing spatial needs within an extended life course frame. The aim has been to investigate social dimensions of housing conditions and how adaptability can contribute to enhanced sustainability.
The methodological approach consists of a qualitative research using a mix of methods, with empirical studies of living situations combined with research by design in the master studio MPARC Housing Invention. The empirical studies consist of enquiries and observations on consecutive dwelling situations effectuated throughout extensive interviews and floor plan registrations. The master studio design work has provided investigations of adaptable apartment design projects of multi-family residential buildings. The research has been part of the transdisciplinary knowledge platform Positive Footprint Housinginitiated by Riksbyggen EF, where in parallel the experimental housing project brf Viva has been unfolded, enabling a full-scale research on solutions of adaptable apartments.
The research findings show that adaptable space can provide vital support in family life course processes. It enables people to remain in their neighbourhood and to preserve valuable social qualities. It can also increase the possibilities to exercise power over the planning and future transformation of a household’s living situation. Spatial adaptability is thus found to be a neglected but most relevant factor for the future design of sustainable apartments.