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Research Projects

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) £39,983, 02.2012 – 02.2013


Flexible Dwellings for Extended Living

Main project collaborators

Prof Ann Light, Northumbria University (Principal Investigator)
Andy Milligan, DJCAD, University of Dundee (Co-Investigator)
Carol Botten, Northern Architecture, Newcastle (Project Co-Manager and Consultant)


Andy Milligan (Co-Investigator)
The Demarco Archives

Context and background

Flex There is a necessity to assess the future of our homes when faced with the pressures of the 21st century – such as, an ageing population, increasing atomization of the family, expensive housing, environmental targets, spiralling energy costs, social isolation and ineffective care homes. Flexible Dwellings for Extended Living (FLEX) explores the potential for adapting our dwellings to deal with these challenges, by collaborating with communities of elders, researchers, industry and home owners to explore configurable spaces, flexible materials, green living, and pervasive media.

Aims and objectives

FLEX aims to explore the emotional and practical boundaries of private and public living so that existing homes can be retrofitted to support companionship, resource sharing and social resilience as people age. Co-design workshops involving the communities of Newcastle and Dundee will identify interests and values and assess how retrofitting a generation of homes could increase sociality. The project will target people in their 40s to 60s, for whom retirement is on its way.

The objectives are: to establish what is possible in terms of current household arrangements and to develop design guidelines based on user insights; to suggest alternatives to sheltered or specialist care accommodation, and thereby overcome social and practical problems of ageing; and to create new patterns of flexible dwelling that help people retain dignity, identity and control over their existing homes.

FLEX will involve participatory workshop, activities and recordings, as well as field studies of people’s homes. The project will benefit from the close work between academic, professional and community partners and aims to develop participatory practices in the interdisciplinary area between interior design and architecture.


Flex Outputs will be captured in a magazine, using video, a blog, and presented in an exhibition in Newcastle and Dundee. Feedback from these sources will be inputted into the final evaluation of what is possible and desirable in modifying existing homes to accommodate a more socially resilient and supportive lifestyle.

These outputs will be incorporated in teaching materials in architecture, interior design, planning, social studies and social gerontology. The blog will be the primary dissemination route for academics and will demonstrate how valuable a shared information hub can be to interdisciplinary research. An archival account of the main aspects of the project, including innovations in methodology and findings will be published in a journal submission and also a special issue on The Future Home, focusing on participatory processes of design in architecture, planning and interior design.

Flex - click here to download pdf description