Designing for Well-being: How Shared Living Spaces Shape Urban Life

01.11.2023, Kelly-anne Watson, Managing Director at The Class Foundation

In a world shaken by unprecedented challenges, our understanding of wellbeing has undergone a profound transformation. We have come to recognize how deeply our mental and physical health intertwines with our urban surroundings. Against this backdrop, interior designers and housing operators are stepping up as pivotal forces in city development, championing holistic wellbeing within shared living spaces. Let's explore the facets of intentional design that can amplify well-being in these urban settings. #THE FABRIC OF COMMUNITY LIVING Historically, community living has been synonymous with an enriched quality of life. [Bjorn Grinde’s research]( on intentional shared living communities corroborates the heightened wellbeing individuals' savour in such settings, which is why at The Class Foundation we have dedicated so much time over the years digging into the nuance and benefits of community building and design. Additionally, we have delivered on the first piece of research called, [The Student Living Monitor]( which delves into the amenities and support in one's living environment and their direct ties to wellbeing and happiness. {{Pic1: Photo from [The Aspen, Novel Student](}} #BLUEPRINTING SPACES FOR HOLISTIC WELL-BEING Space for Positive Activities - Our living environment can be a compelling catalyst for individual habits. With expansive kitchens and in-house gyms, coupled with dedicated zones for yoga and meditation, residents are gently directed towards healthier lifestyles. Communal spaces emerge as heartbeats, nurturing social bonds. Carving Out Control - Distinct separations between private and communal realms are paramount in shared living: - Private Spaces: Sanctuaries for residents to find solace and rejuvenation. - Communal Spaces: Vibrant hotspots for camaraderie, from kitchens to lounges and outdoor expanses. - Study Zones: Bespoke areas fostering intellectual endeavours, offering quiet corners and dynamic collaborative spaces. Post discussions with our partner [Yugo](, a leading PBSA (Purpose Build Student Accommodation) provider, it dawned on us that PBSA design should champion a balance between study and life. In essence, crafting spaces is a dance between fostering community spirit for wellbeing and providing functional amenities to thrive academically. {{Pic2: Photo from The Class’s European Student Living Monitor 2023.}} Supporting this notion, The Class's European Student Living Monitor presents compelling evidence: a stark contrast in mental health scores between those who engage/have access to communal spaces and those who do not. The data underscores that thoughtful spaces can significantly impact mental well-being. Designers, however, have another layer to consider; ensuring these spaces beckon residents, because a space truly shines when it is utilised and loved. #HOME WITHIN A COMMERCIAL BUILDING Someone once said, "community is not a place, it is a feeling,” and for me, this resonates deeply with the ethos of shared living design. Spaces should exude warmth, pride, identity, and safety. {{Pic3: Photo from [Nido](, [Randwyck]( – coworking lounge designed by [A Designer at Heart](}} Striking a harmony between the charms of home and the pulse of modernity is vital. The nuances of quality, vibrancy, gentleness, and a dash of delightful imperfection weave an authentic home tapestry. Intertwining elements of local culture along with their own further allows residents to foster bonds with the broader community. [The Social Hub](, a hybrid hospitality/housing company and partner at The Class, with its innovative "Connector" role, stands as a beacon of internal and external community engagement. Acting as the community's heartbeat, this role collects insights and crafts an exhaustive events calendar. It is a living testament to their commitment to amplifying community voices and actualising their visions. Additionally, The Social Hub's 'Under 25' board is a masterstroke, further embedding the community in shaping shared experiences. I love this idea as this gives young people in their buildings a sense of ownership of the space whilst keeping it relevant and activated. {{Pic4: Photo of [The Better Society Masterclass]( an initiative hosted by the Connector at The Social Hub.}} Echoing these sentiments, our Student Living Monitor highlights the merits of community-driven design. Our findings revealed that thoughtfully curated shared living spaces elevate overall well-being by a significant 25% against traditional housing. An astounding 87% of residents reported a richer sense of community, spotlighting the importance of community-centric spaces. This uplift is a testimony to the effort and commitment of co-living and PBSA providers that imbue brick-and-mortar buildings with the collective essence of shared experiences, creating supportive and thriving environments. #A MEETING OF MINDS: THE CLASS CONFERENCE      For those enthralled by the interplay of design, urban planning, and well-being, ['The Class Conference, Reality check']( is a calendar essential. Set for 8th and 9th November in Barcelona, this summit promises rich insights into design innovations, urban strategies, and holistic well-being. Attendees can anticipate inspiring site tours, stimulating discourse, and priceless networking opportunities. Secure your spot at The Class Conference - Reality Check for this enlightening journey and hear and meet experts and trend watchers. In wrapping up, as our societal compass recalibrates towards a holistic grasp of well-being, the role of design in sculpting our habitats is undeniably central. By infusing principles of community, autonomy, and warmth into shared spaces, we are on a mission to craft habitats that elevate both individual and collective wellbeing. {{Pic5}} **All Things Urban is pleased to share this article in collaboration with [The Class Foundation]( , a non-profit aimed at elevating student housing standards globally. This comes ahead of their upcoming [The Class Conference]( in Barcelona on November 8-9, 2023.**