I spent many years wanting to live somewhere that felt like a community, as an architect it felt like it should happen in a chic purpose built ‘co-living’ apartment building like ones that I knew in Berlin.
I live in an ordinary apartment building in Stoneybatter. Forty apartments surrounding a poorly orientated shared garden, a slightly odd building that I had always joked seemed like it was designed by someone who had never seen an apartment building before.
Me and my neighbours always came and went at speed – off to work in the morning, home in the evening, everyone just going about their business. The shared garden was only ever used by stroppy marijuana smoking teens from elsewhere in the area.
Lockdown happened at the end of March and it took about a month of working at home for myself and my neighbours to form the Blackhall Green WhatsApp group. We thought it would be nice to plan a barbecue when Covid was vanquished but pretty soon we were having regular socially distanced drinks in the sunny corner of the garden.
Suddenly I was living in what felt like a community, or certainly the embryo of one. In the intervening time we have started to socialise, to give away unwanted furniture, swap recipes and local shopping tips. Plant watering, DIY tips and tool lending have recently been added as group activity, while community gardening has been declared as a future aim.
While this was happening journalists were circling, trying to find architects to announce the death of apartment living due to Covid. They went from one architect to the next, descending from the more considered and serious downwards until they found the right tone of contrite and hysterical that chimed with the mood of the media. Finally on some nonsense morning radio show I heard the rhetorical question “Is apartment building pandemic proof”?
We are a robust species and in times of adversity we find ways to help and support one another. I will always be eternally grateful to my neighbours who were there when we all felt desperate and isolated and if, as time goes on, this group turns into something that feels like a longer term community then my dream will have come true.
In the end being part of the creation of a community of which I had always dreamed took just a small shift in me and my neighbours lifestyles and responses to each other rather than an architectural project of cleverly designed bricks and mortar.