In Paris’ Station F, smart co-living design elevates the city’s tech start-up industry

Paris – Cutwork, the Amsterdam and Paris-based strategic design and architecture studio that helped forge Station F, the largest start-up facility in the world, has achieved another milestone in the French city. In collaboration with Wilmotte & Associés, the team is responsible for Flatmates, the first large-scale co-living space in Paris – developed for the entrepreneurs, freelancers and staff members of the start-ups located in Station F. This opening signals that La French Tech is taking measures to ensure that Silicon Valley’s Achilles’ heel, the housing market, will not become its own.

The installation of the 600-resident building (and the example it sets) this early on into Paris’ tech life could help boost co-living’s popularity on a broader scale than what’s been possible with the Silicon Valley, where it’s been slow to catch on. Additionally, it may help ease the impact an influx of start-up capital and, consequentially, incoming city-dwellers, will have on existing residents.

In California, the wealth of the tech industry has been a main cause for the migration of longtime San Francisco and Silicon Valley residents toward affordable housing in Bay Area suburbs. In an increasing number of cases, they are being pushed even further out, producing hellish commutes. Many, even the tech elite, are opting to leave; just last month, Google announced its plans for the first half of a one-billion-dollar [in USD] investment committed to addressing the crisis. Campus, a shared housing start-up, failed in San Francisco and New York City two years after opening in 2015. It remains to be seen how Starcity, a projected San Jose co-living building advertised as largest in the world, will fare should it break ground.

The concept behind Flatmates is quite similar to what Campus’ was: develop a flexible, interaction-centric residential community. But unlike the latter, Flatmates has timing on its side. Moreover, the space is a good example of how community designers today should be carefully considering contemporary lifestyle shifts in their own projects, boom or no boom.

These new models of cohabitation are going to be the most disruptive thing to happen to real estate since the commercial office tower and modern apartment block

Cutwork frames Flatmates as an answer to the ‘five key developments driving a fundamental shift in the way we live and work: rapid urbanisation, the shared economy, rise of the freelancer, the epidemic of loneliness and the fall of the nuclear family.’ Its Flatmates concept, which drew inspiration from Japanese culture, revolves around three words: Wa, a space for ‘deep focus, introspection and understanding one’s self in relation to others.’ Ba, a space for ‘collaboration, extroversion and knowledge-sharing.’ And finally, Ma: a space for the ‘spontaneous and unexpected – the collision of people and ideas.’ The building, split over three towers, has 100 shared apartments, a café, private lounge bar and space for events. Over 5,000 pieces of custom furniture were produced by Cutwork to deck them.

The studio’s co-founder and lead architect Antonin Yuji Maeno believes co-living will radically change the way we build cities, communities and lifestyles. In his words, ‘these new models of cohabitation are going to be the most disruptive thing to happen to real estate since the commercial office tower and modern apartment block.’

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