Shared space in contemporary housing: Design research experiments towards a more resilient Melbourne

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The need for a greater diversity of housing options in Australia continues to escalate, as our major cities simultaneously contend with unprecedented rates of growth, changed modes of living and a fledgling mainstream housing market. Shared space is emerging as a lynchpin for delivering dwelling alternatives to the unsustainable, inflexible, and cost-prohibitive development models that dominate Melbourne’s housing supply. For example, shared amenity and services in higher density housing can increase the quality of urban redevelopment outcomes and decrease the ongoing cost of living for residents. Yet many of the benefits achieved through the design of shared domestic spaces are not permissible under current planning regulations. Similarly, service efficiencies delivered at a collective-level are not easily achieved in a mainstream housing market geared towards individual ownership. New possibilities for sharing personal assets have come about with the advent of the global Sharing Economy. However these digital infrastructures are having unintended social and physical impacts for urban housing. The success of home-sharing platforms like Airbnb, for example, is diminishing the locational and financial choices available to Melbourne’s long-term renters.

This paper brings together a range of design research that explores the design opportunities and challenges of shared domestic space undertaken by academics at Monash University. Operating across the scales of room, building, neighbourhood and metropolis, the authors demonstrate how speculative design and spatial analysis inflect on the social, financial and policy frameworks that underpin residential development outcomes in Melbourne. The body of work spans doctoral research, commissioned research, competitive grants and built projects. Together, the projects suggest how digital infrastructures could be instrumentalised through spatial design to positive effect, supporting a greater diversity of dwellings, new kinds of shared interactions and potential policy formation to steward Melbourne’s growth towards 9 million.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Annual Design Research Conference 2019
Subtitle of host publicationReal/Material/Ethereal
EditorsLaura Harper
Place of PublicationMelbourne Vic Australia
PublisherMonash University
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781921994524
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventReal/Material/Ethereal: Exhibition of the Annual Design Research Conference 2019 - Monash University, Caulfield East, Australia
Duration: 3 Oct 20195 Oct 2019


ConferenceReal/Material/Ethereal: Exhibition of the Annual Design Research Conference 2019
CityCaulfield East
Internet address


  • shared space
  • housing
  • sharing economy
  • design practice
  • design research

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