Re: Design Process: Call for experiences
From: Nancy E Wight (
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 94 20:45 CST
Rob asked:

> We are looking at hiring the Cohousing Company for the site design for 
> our second phase. It would be enormously useful to hear your 
> experiences, good and bad about your design process for your sites. To 
> get your thinking started:
> 1. What has or is working well?

The site "programming" process was absolutely essential. In New View, what 
I saw happen is that everyone went into programming with their own 
pre-conceived notion about what the site would look like - how dense the 
buildings would be, what type of buildings (duplex, single family, etc.),
and came out with a plan that really encompassed the whole group.  Each 
group has its own identity and it's crucial that that identity be expressed 
and developed in the programming phase.  If we had gone strictly by THE 
BOOK, our site plan wouldn't have suited the needs of our community as a 

> 2. What would you do differently?

Come to some agreement AT THE VERY BEGINNING about your values around CARS! 
Are you going to allow cars to park at their houses? If so, how many? Is 
there any part of the site that will be off-limits to cars? If so, under 
what conditions can cars enter the pedestrian zone? These issues affect 
lots of decisions, especially when you get down to house selection. Of 
course, if you don't have a pedestrian zone, this isn't as much of an 

> 3. How well did the process of working with professional designers go 
> and what advise would you give to someone just starting this?

IMHO, we have been extremely fortunate.  Our architects possess something 
that I have not seen in too many others - it's an ability to catch the 
"feel" of the group, to see which direction we are leaning and help us 
clarify the needs of the entire group. I don't think they learned this in 
architecture school - they are just very patient, tuned-in, and committed 
to doing what's best for us.

> 4. What were the gotcha's in your process?

The car thing that I mentioned above. We started out by saying that it was 
OK for a few people to drive up to their house.  But when we actually got 
down to it, many more people wanted to park at their house than we had 
originally planned for (I think this was largely due to the terrible winter 
we had last year) and we didn't have a mechanism for saying when enough was 
enough.  We ended up designing more road so that more people could park at 
their houses.

Also, as you probably know, there is no way to know how much your site plan 
will ultimately cost until it is designed.  And only then do you find out 
that it's too expensive.  This happened to us, mainly because we had a 
reduction in the number of houses we were allowed to have on the site, and 
all of a sudden we had a site plan that was too expensive for the number of 
houses allowed. This was complicated and could not have been foreseen at 
the time, but to the extent you can, it's obviously better to know how many 
houses you can have sooner than later.
> 5. General advise about site design?

Something I learned from someone at Nyland at the Boulder conference: make 
sure you have places for people to SIT if you intend to make a space a 
gathering place.  It's good to have a few benches placed in strategic 
locations around the site for this purpose.

Also, if you can, put the common house in a part of the site that has 
particularly nice features, such as a good view, lots of sun, a big lawn 
behind it, etc.  Although we don't live there yet, there was sentiment 
expressed during the programming process that people were more inclined to 
hang out in and around the common house if it possessed some of these 

- Nancy

Nancy Wight                                   wight [at]
New View Neighborhood Development             Acton, MA

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