Happy Families: Proximity and Privacy

John Ward
John Ward

The Financial Times (1/9/11, p. 7) had a feature article on three generation joint Indian families living in the same home and how they design their homes to “encourage modern nuclear-style living, alongside age-old cultural values, which promote communal life.”

This situation recalls the classical paradox of individuality and collective.

One architect quoted tells of the need to “mediate between two generations with two diverse and opposing viewpoints.” The common balance seems to be to provide independent living quarters for each generation (with separate kitchens) and shared entrance and lounge/living room where everyone’s interests – “independent-but-connected,” as one architect put it.

There are other ways respect for traditional communal living are preserved: shared courtyard, gym, translucent internal doors, and single staircase. The balance is further struck by re-emphasizing “family rituals such as always eating Sunday lunches together and using the whole house for celebrations with extended family.”

Beyond balancing different views and seeking the benefits of both proximity and privacy, one person in the article found synthesis with an unambiguous comment:

“A lot of people of my generation feel they are doing a favor for their parents by living with them, but if you’re a working mother you’re being done the biggest favor.”

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