Communal Architecture is not just about designing ‘community buildings’ but it more so reaches out to people of the same vision, goal and lifestyle. Allowing such people to come and live together forming their small communities within the larger social fabric of a country.  Communal architecture has entered the social fabric of countries now and has continuously changed and evolved. 

Knowing how to design communal architecture is crucial to add value to the community and eventually the city that it sits within. 

Here are 10 pointers to take when designing communal architecture.

1. Who does it serve?

The very first step in designing a form of Communal Architecture would be to learn and understand who it serves. Communal Architecture can serve the majority of its people however a design that stands out would be one that serves a specific type of people. 

Take New Ground Co-Housing in the United Kingdom as an example. This communal architecture serves old women residents and has served to be a space that allows each of the residents to lean onto one another forming a type of community on its own.

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New Ground Co-Housing ©Tim Crocker

2. Concept Idea

Communal Architecture should never quite be alike. What makes a great communal architecture design is one that is site-specific and one that highlights the best a said location offers. A concept idea can help push a community’s character making it the main feature of communal architecture. 

Considering the surrounding space and how people use them is important in designing a building that fits seamlessly with its area and addresses the necessities of its residents. WeLive by Wework encompasses this quite well.

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WeLive ©WeWork 

3. Community Space vs. A Space for the Community

A space for the community does not quite serve to be a community space. Applying this to communal architecture, it is important to design spaces that allow constructive and useful gathering points, unlike empty spaces that serve to exist as is. 

This means that spaces that are designed should be comfortable with strategies like having natural ventilation or a space that encourages connections within its community. Such spaces can be active spaces like gardening spaces or more casual passive spaces where people can gather and socialise. 

Designing communal architecture also means that architects should have the community in mind throughout the whole project so that to ensure that community space exists not just a space for the community. Norn stems to be a co-living space that encourages people to connect. It focuses on ‘the art of conversation’ and ‘aims to foster connections between its residents by hosting weekly social gatherings and dinners where they can discuss a wide range of set topics’.

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Norn ©Travis Holligsworth

4. On the ground study 

It is important to understand that communal architecture is meant for a community and to better design for a community, on the ground study is what comes into the picture. Interviews to better understand the needs and wants of a community will give architects a better grasp and knowledge in designing a space for such communities. 

With this, architects are more equipped in solving and addressing real issues that different communities may face. Salva46 by Miel Arquitectos and Studio P10 is described to be ‘an experiment in shared micro-living’. A lot of studies were done to design the apartments. 

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Salva46 ©Asier Rua

5. Sustainability and Functionality

Communal architecture stems a lot from sustainability. It should not only address the problems of the present but also stand to be a work that redefines the future. Even more so in this current era, community dwellers prefer an eco-friendly option that meets their daily needs. Let us take transit-oriented spaces as an example. Such transit-oriented spaces include daily necessities within walking distance. This option is also a good example of functionality within a community space. 

Transit-oriented spaces push to fit transit stations into the design. This creates a form of communal architecture that emphasizes the transit system of the community. Transit-oriented spaces are both sustainable, functional and add flair to the overall experience of living in a form of communal architecture. Chapeltown Cohousing is an example of a community-led sustainable focused communal architecture.

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Chapeltown Cohousing ©Chapeltown Cohousing

6. Inclusivity

Inclusivity should be inculcated within a design. Communal Architecture should have spaces that inspire gathering and connections among community-dwellers. This means to say that a form of communal architecture should encourage social interaction. This stands to be an extension of typical designs where communal architecture can push boundaries and create spaces that residents can take pride in by fostering their own self-made identity within the community. 

The Rainbow Mansion in San Francisco is a co-living space for engineers and entrepreneurs and residents benefit from community events, life dinner gatherings, and conferences.

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The Rainbow Mansion ©The Rainbow Mansion
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Transit-Oriented Development ©ITDP

7. Sense of place

Architects should design communal architecture that delves deeper from first impressions. This is to say that buildings of such should be created with multiple touchpoints within the building. This helps in creating a curious and intriguing experience that slowly reveals itself as one goes through the building. The sense of place should be unique to the building as different building types serve a different sense of a place. 

For example, in hospitals, the main visitors of the building are typical in distress which means the sense of place should be one that cares about the wellbeing of a person. A good hospital can help patients get better faster and alleviate both the patient and the visitor’s experience. Treehouse by Bo-Daa shows how residents help coax the sense of place.

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Treehouse ©Rohspace

8. Feedback Loop

To design good communal architecture, one should stay humble and continuously ask for feedback. This serves as a reminder that the true experts of communal architecture are the community residents that live in them. Having this in mind will push architects to create something more worthwhile. The feedback loop will also allow architects to better understand how to design future communal architecture projects. Collaboration and learning the needs of the people will alleviate one’s overall design.

9. Improvements

Searching for improvements to communal architecture extends after the feedback loop. This applies to completed projects and even projects that are within the designing phase. Case studies of pre-existing communal architecture come in handy in understanding the foundations of designing communal architecture. 

10. Beyond Architecture itself

As much as communal architecture serves its community, it too is ingrained within the fabrics of society. This means to say it acts accordingly beyond the walls of the architecture itself. The future of communal architecture is that it can pull people of similar likings and create a unique lifestyle of its own. It brings people together and allows people to be with other people that share similar life joys and struggles. 

Alexis Dornier’s Roam is a great example of this as he pushes for co-living to be a globalised connected web with the same concept to not only exist in one country but a couple of others.

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Roam ©Alexis Dornier



Currently an architecture student in National University of Singapore (NUS), she wishes to eventually live in a van, swims with whales and delve into different works of arts. An avid learner who strives to be of an all-rounded individual, she too is a lover of words, psychology, and human experiences.