Co-living with Lefebvre. The production of space at the collective old oak

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
In the latter half of the 2010s, commercial co-living has emerged as a novel option for housing in several major cities around the world (Tomlinson, 2017). While co-living facilities may be poised to become a common feature in the housing markets of global cities, little has been written about this new urban formation. This project begins to build an understanding as to what kind of lifestyles these housing facilities foster and sustain by examining a case study of one prominent example of the form: The Collective Old Oak, located in London’s Willesden Junction. Using Henri Lefebvre’s spatial triad as a framework, this case study regards space as socially produced, a product of how it is conceived, perceived and lived. In order to analyze the nature of co-living space, this research integrates semi-structured interviews with residents and staff, analysis of media representations of co-living, and on-site observations in order to build a thick description of life at Old Oak. This social space is considered in the context of London’s increasingly competitive and financialized housing market (Minton, 2017), with special attention to how these conditions produce abstract space, Lefebvre’s frictionless, quantified space of capitalism (Lefebvre, 1974 [1991]). The findings demonstrate that the residential space of commercial co-living operations like Old Oak is beset by a tension between its conceived roles as an asset meant to accumulate capital and as a residence meant to cultivate community. This tension is heightened by the actions of residents, which vacillate between conforming to and creatively appropriating the conceived space of the facility.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen