FLEX: Flexible Dwellings for Extended Living

In response to pressures of 21st century living, such as an ageing population, increased family dispersal, expensive housing and energy costs, social isolation and ineffective care homes; the Flexible Dwellings for Extended Living (FLEX) project focused on investigating the potential for adapting existing homes to be more flexible for people as they age. Through collaborating with communities of elders, researchers, industry representatives and home owners to explore configurable spaces, flexible materials, green living, and pervasive media; FLEX researched the emotional and practical boundaries of private and public living, while helping people retain dignity, identity and control over existing homes.

Linsey acted as a research assistant and designer alongside the FLEX research team of Professor Ann Light from Northumbria University School of Design; Andy Milligan from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee; and Carol Botten, Director, and Lowri Bond, Managing Director of Northern Architecture. FLEX was awarded Arts & Humanities Research Council funding through their Connected Communities Research Programme.

The team launched the project with a co-design workshop in Newcastle with a diverse range of specialists interested in housing, material science, design and architecture to develop initial ideas, sketches, models and concepts. The outcomes inspired the development of ‘high-tea’ themed co-design workshops taking place in cafes in Dundee and Newcastle. Participants in their 40s to 60s, for whom retirement is not so distant, were invited to consider how they might dwell more socially as they age; how future housing can better serve companionship; and how social resilience and sharing can be encouraged.

Outcomes were documented in a blog, a series of academic papers, and a specially compiled newspaper and installation that were exhibited at the AHRC Connected Communities showcase at Heriot Watt University, and at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.