Amsterdam’s Kollontai was the O.G. communal living solution.
All images courtesy of Anton & Irene
In response to the rise of trendy co-living organizations like Common, Krash, and Ollie, Brooklyn-based design duo Anton & Irene created One Shared House, an interactive documentary exploring firsthand the experience of co-living. But unlike contemporary startups, which typically create apartment “communities” in trendy neighborhoods catering towards wealthy post-college, pre-marriage individuals, the documentary focuses on profit-agnostic, community-based co-living.
One Shared House examines the upbringing of Irene Pereyra (the Irene of Anton & Irene), who spent a large part of her childhood living in a communal home in Amsterdam with her mother. Named Kollontai after the Russian feminist revolutionary, the house was part of a legislative effort enacted in Amsterdam in the late 1980s, which required that one percent of all newly built houses function as communal living situations, in response to a housing shortage and squatting epidemic at the time. All in all, twelve mostly-unrelated individuals lived together under a single roof, sharing responsibility and bills while working to foster a sense of community.
“The thing to keep in mind is that co-living start-ups cater specifically to millennials who are in that grey-zone between college and ‘getting married,’ and you don’t see entire families living in them,” Pereyra tells The Creators Project. “The co-living houses in New York City today are privately owned and are being run like start-up companies. There are investors and they are meant to make a profit.”
“The house that I grew up in, however – the focus of the documentary – was not for profit at all,” the designer adds. “The people who lived in our house were not making very much money, and were all otherwise eligible for public housing. A lawyer, or doctor, or someone who would fall into a higher income bracket would not have been able to live in our house.”
As the ten-minute documentary recalling Pereyra’s experience unfolds, pop-ups offering contextual information and deeper explorations of topics appear. Logistical issues, like how finances were managed and what was shared and what wasn’t, can be examined in full detail at the hit of the button. The most interesting interactive blurb is the “What was it like for me?” section, in which the designer talks about how the experience affected her as a child, living so intimately with strangers.
At the end of the documentary, the viewer has the option of filling out a survey on what they would be willing to share in a living situation, a way of stacking up how close or far-off they are from being able to live communally, as Pereyra did in 1989.
Ultimately, One Shared House isn’t meant as a plug for the increasingly-popular co-living start-ups. The interactive documentary has less commercial goals: “We saw this project like a personal research project, or a thesis. We wanted to tell this story, and we were curious about the data that would come in afterwards,” explains Pereyra. “People from all over the world are sharing their own experiences of and thoughts around communal living, which are all very personal and incredibly touching to read.”