The Flexible Dwellings for Extended Living (FLEX) project explores the boundaries of private and public living, looking at making dwellings more flexible for people as they age and retrofitting existing properties rather than building new homes.
The project involves people in Newcastle and Dundee in co-design workshops that focus on how people might dwell more socially as they age, better serving companionship, resource sharing and social resilience. The activities will bring in people in their 40s to 60s, for whom retirement is not so distant, and identify their interests and values. The project team will also work with local partners the Quality of Life Partnership and Isos Housing Ltd.
The project runs from February 2012 – February 2013, launched with a workshop of diverse specialists interested in housing, material science, design and architecture to develop initial ideas, sketches, models and concepts. These will be used as the stimulus to inspire participants in the community co-design workshops.
The FLEX research team comprises Prof. Ann Light from Northumbria University School of Design; Andy Milligan from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, and Carol Botten, Director of Northern Architecture. FLEX has been awarded Arts & Humanities Research Council funding through the Community, Culture & Design theme of their Connected Communities Research Programme.
CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND
The pressures of 21st century living – an ageing population, increasing dispersal of the family, expensive housing, environmental targets, spiralling energy costs, social isolation and ineffective care homes – suggest it is timely to revisit how we organise our homes. FLEX explores the potential for adapting our dwellings to deal with these challenges, by collaborating with communities of elders, researchers, industry representatives and home owners to explore configurable spaces, flexible materials, green living, and pervasive media.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
FLEX aims to explore the emotional and practical boundaries of private and public living so that existing homes can be retrofitted to support companionship, resource sharing and social resilience as people age. Our objectives include establishing what is possible in terms of current household arrangements and to develop design guidelines based on user insights; to suggest alternatives to sheltered or specialist care accommodation, and thereby overcome social and practical problems of ageing; and to create new patterns of flexible dwelling that help people retain dignity, identity and control over their existing homes.
The project will benefit from the close work between academic, professional and community partners and aims to develop participatory practices in the interdisciplinary area between interior design and architecture.