October 29, 2016

Coliving: The Third Place

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Cities are changing. But what humans want and crave in the places they live will never change. We are wired in a certain way and require certain outlets within cities

“According to urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg, people need three types of places to live fulfilled, connected lives: Their “first place” (home) for private respite; their “second place” (work) for economic engagement; and their “third place,” a more amorphous arena used for reaffirming social bonds and community identities. This third place can be a barbershop, neighborhood bar, community center, or even a public square.”

The sociology of CoLiving

In a recent post we explored how the sharing economy is changing the way we live, work, and form families. Now, with the advent of coliving, we see the shift towards combining our need for a first and second space into one. Coliving is defined as ‘housing that includes a philosophy of community, shared space and a built-in social life.‘ Because it’s the progeny of coworking, many of the ‘first movers’ in the industry – such as WeLive – are attempting to combine both into one concept. Some members live in WeLive and work in WeWork, and the company undoubtedly has plans to create that magical third place to close the circle:

“So you have Sunday night family dinner at WeLive, followed by Monday morning breakfast at WeWork. It never … it never ends. The WeWork circle of life is what it becomes.”

What its like to Work in a WeWork – and live in a WeLive

WeWork/WeLive are far from the only examples. The global landscape is popping with coliving ‘startups’ like You+ in China:

From Asia to Alaska, and everywhere in between, the desire to reshape the way we live around community is being manifested in a wide range of goods and services as part of the sharing economy.  Something deep and profound is happening. You get the sense that the  Silicon Valley way of life – where we kill time on our iPhones, find places to go on Google, socialize on Snapchat, and find people to date on Tinder – is losing its luster. Movements like coliving show the importance of the human touch, face-to-face connection, and physical space.


Yet there is a still strong role for digital in all of this. It binds people together who are like-minded, those who aspire to the same things, in a way that wasn’t possible pre-digital. In these megalopolis cities,  many new citizens feel anonymized and lonely, and crave those connections that can become something more substantial:

“Meanwhile, sharing economy services are bringing people together, turning digital connections between peers into real meetings and new ways of living together.”

The CoLiving Craze

But having the physical space to make those connections is the missing link. The magical third place is what’s missing in cities worldwide:

“Life without community has produced, for many, a life style consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community.”

Project for Public Spaces


Cafés have always been an essential part of the ville, or city; however, during the industrial revolution and the suburbanization of cities, we began to prioritize for spaces to work and live only, thereby marginalizing the value of spaces to play and making them increasingly difficult to sustain financially for those in the business of doing so.

We are about to go full-circle cities and come back to a village way of living, driven by the sharing economy, the need for human connection and the third place.

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