Whether it’s due to over-heated housing markets, social isolation, a lack of childcare or simply a renewed interest in communal living, multi-generational housing has seen a renaissance over the course of the last decade. A fifth of 25-34-year-olds in the UK now live with their parents, according to The Resolution Foundation, while Pew Research calculates that 64 million Americans presently reside in multi-generational households. This number is likely set to increase, with 41 per cent of prospective US home buyers considering the need to accommodate a parent or adult child when looking for properties, according to a study by John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

The over-abundance of single-family homes means that much of the global housing stock is ill-suited to such demographic evolutions, however. What’s more, those pre-existing properties that can accommodate households beyond the two-and-a-half-children model often rely on separating, rather than integrating, additional generations through the use of annexes (literally a subordinate part) or the ‘granny flat’.

Here we look at four recent projects that push beyond these stereotypes, experimenting with function, flexibility and layout to build spaces that help generations live together both long term, and on their own terms.


Photos: Yao Li and AZL Architects

AZL Architects create layers of privacy in Shanghai

To care for his ailing mother, client Lao Song moved from a penthouse in Shanghai to his old family home in the Fengxian district – however the lift and the indoor circulation proved much too narrow for her wheelchair. But then, he thought: Why not provide his daughter and his son-in-law with the same opportunity for his parents, who also suffer from health issues? That’s when the idea hit: he would demolish the entire structure and in its place create a mobility-friendly single unit with five bedrooms in total, but varying levels of community and privacy for each section of the family.

Read the full story here.


Photo: Daici Ano and Takumi Ota

Nendo makes use of metaphor in Tokyo

This two-family home highlights how just one interior element – a staircase – can both segregate and connect a shared living arrangement while making the most of a built-up situation. The older couple’s rooms are located on the ground floor while the younger couple and their child live on the two levels above. The central staircase – which begins in the garden and pierces the interior membrane before continuing through the interior – unites the spaces and their inhabitants and incorporates various functional elements, bathrooms among them, before extending through to the building’s skylight to serve as a portal to the world beyond.

Read the full story here.


Photo: Ikuya Sasaki

Yoshichika Takagi reinvents tradition in Hokkaido

Instead of tearing down a 1974 house done in a then-vernacular and now-anonymous style, a family and an architect decided to keep its bones and instead focus on adapting the outer layer.

The original dwelling is an example of Hokkaido’s Minka housing, featuring so-called ‘deformed’ sloped roofs – they look like a technical glitch forced itself upon a triangular roof. But architect Yoshichika Takagi saw its spatial potential: this breathing room on top could be used to turn the residence into a duplex of sorts, with parents living in the lower unit and their offspring in the upper one.  

Read the full story here.


Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode

Beta anticipates the future in Amsterdam

How do you accommodate three generations of one family who decide they all want to live in Amsterdam, one of Europe’s most competitive housing markets? Local architecture firm Beta provided a solution in the shape of a mini-apartment building: a dwelling for the elderly couple on top, a larger unit with a garden below and a guest suite between them. As the floorplan is divided by a vertical access system, either side can be connected to the staircase to create different configurations – offering greater flexibility for when the children become young adults.

Read the full story here

On Thursday, 4 June we will host a #FrameLive talk on the post-pandemic future of residential design. Learn more here.