Access Not Ownership | Co-living as a New Domestic Model

Interview with Elvina Beck | Founder of Podshare, Los Angeles
Queen Size Pod - Photo ©George Guida for Mood Board Magazine
Queen Size Pod - Photo ©George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

Today’s emerging nomadic generation is leading to a rapid redevelopment of communal living models. Based out in Los Angeles, Podshare is paving the way for short-term housing alternatives. Founded by Elvina Beck, the development centres on a collaborative community, bringing pods, podestrians and co-living into a new model for affordable living. Mood Board Magazine was able to sit down with Beck, and pick at the brains behind this venture.

Podshare's Downtown LA Arts District Hub Photo © George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

Podshare’s Downtown LA Arts District Hub Photo © George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

“Access not Ownership”

Companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Netflix have proven how fast our economy is changing towards a pay-as-you-live market, where “access”, as opposed to “ownership,” is becoming the new status quo. People are more connected now than they have ever been and the concept of a fixed office job is slowly vanishing. While the mid-2000’s was marked by the initial burst of ‘co-working’ spaces, a new lifestyle trend of ‘co-living’ has surfaced, pioneered largely in the United States.

While ‘co-living’ still represents itself as an unresolved urban experiment, it is hardly a foreign concept. Dating as far back as to monastic living cells, its reinterpretation today differs only that it hinges on large-scale corporate schemes. Companies such as WeLive and The Collective have brought high priced micro-living to New York and London, where as Roam and Soho House introduces exclusive international ‘telecommuting’ retreats.

“Co-living is collaborative living  – there is no door, there is no way to close yourself out”” – Elvina Beck

However, the alternative Podshare presents, alongside Embassy Network, a response to the much needed affordable community to Los Angeles and San Francisco. “Micro-living is living in small spaces with a door. Co-living is collaborative living – there is no door, there is no way to close yourself out” says Beck. Podshare presents itself as the anti-micro-living typology, with no isolating walls, doors or curtains. She continues, “…when building the floor plan, I wanted to create a space with a high collision rate. There is less depression when you are surrounded by people, newness, and transparency.”

 Podshare Founder Elvina Beck - Photo © George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

Podshare Founder Elvina Beck – Photo © George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

Identifiable between a hostel and a shared apartment, this new, industrial loft style model is completely open plan. In its Downtown LA site, each sleeping pod has direct access to a shared kitchen, an entertainment room, as well as co-working spaces on a mezzanine level. With stays ranging from three days to three months, the “safe, sane, and social” screening process brings together a wide range of people, from travellers to transitioners and temps.

“I wanted to create a space with a high collision rate. There is less depression when you are surrounded by people, newness, and transparency.” – Beck
 Queen Size Pod - Photo © George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

Queen Size Pod – Photo © George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

Beck asks “What happens to the community when a space is too big? We would get lost”. With sites in Hollywood, Downtown Arts District, and Los Feliz, all spaces are intentionally built within 1 to 2 thousand square feet “… and no more”. She describes that community works best when people can get to know each other, which is also why each ‘podestrian’ is asked to put their name above their bed.

 Open Plan Twin Pod Arrangement - Photo © George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

Open Plan Twin Pod Arrangement – Photo © George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

The problem with building in dense urban spaces tends to come down to real estate. The scarcity of land has made these attempts of creating co-living spaces either over-priced or overcrowded with bunkbeds. Podshare has successfully overcome such issues and is able to offer rooms in downtown Los Angeles for about $40 to $50/ night (prices vary depending on high season/demand)

“We want Podshare to be a co-housing model, not necessarily a social travel model, where people commit to the city and engage with the economy.” – Beck
Co-Working Space - Photo ©George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

Co-Working Space – Photo ©George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

There is never a strict routine at Podshare. “Podshare is the anti-routine: your pod is the same, however your neighbours are always changing”. Beck’s future goal is to expand from East to West LA is soon to be a reality, together with the possibility of branching into making transitional homes for LA’s homeless.

Shared Kitchen - Photo ©George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

Shared Kitchen – Photo ©George Guida for Mood Board Magazine

It is clear that co-living and this ‘podsharing’ typology is challenging to the increasingly gentrified and expensive Los Angeles. However, how can this model expand to long term living while creating a new sense of community? By challenging the notion of domestic privacy, could this help overturn the America’s dominant single family zoning model? Is micro-living the inevitable future of our cities?

The future is Access not Ownership

George Guida gained his BA in Architecture at Oxford Brookes University and is currently completing his studies at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. He has worked in Florence, Kuwait City and most recently at CZWG Architects in London.