site design
From: Graham Meltzer (
Date: Sun, 29 Jan 95 22:47 CST
Blake Cullimoren writes
>I am looking for any information or opinions that would make a 
>relationship between the site design of a cohousing community and the 
>community that surrounds the cohousing site.  What are some of the 
>important elements to consider when begining the site planning process.
>How do we relate to the outside community as a part of the design. 

Great topic ... and one which related directly to the recent discussion of
gawkers/visiting ettiquette/tresspassing etc.

It's encouraging indeed to hear of a US cohousing group concerned with site
design measures which facilitate relations with neighbours. I can imagine
though, that many will feel that there's too great a risk involved in
leaving their site open to neighbours. I know crime rates vary enormously
across the country and within regions, but I imagine (and I don't have the
figures) that concern for safety is an American preocupation that we in
Australia are relatively free of. Having been to Denmark for a period I also
understand that their crime rate is even less of a concern than ours. So the
question arises, are there generalisations one can draw on in designing for
a specific site in a particular culture? 

I would like to think that there is in this sense. We in cohousing seek to
establish more meaningful relations with other human beings ... to develope
greater openness, support and love for people we live and communicate with.
That is a matter of principle I believe, which if we don't carry through
into other aspects of our lives is in danger of becoming hollow and self
serving. So I would suggest that being open to neighbours is a natural
extension of cohousings' principle intention. 

There are plenty of devices already developed by the Danes which encourage
interaction with neighbours; semi-public routes through the site, transition
zones between the cohousing site and the neighbours, facilities such as a
cafe, games room or store that might be used by both groups etc. These are
all very specific to conditions of site, participants and culture so are
best worked up by members and designers for each instance.

As for the crime risk and stranger danger ... there's a whole literature on
the matter of defensible and defended space. Does prohibiting access with
fences reduce danger or invite it? Is having houses overlooking well defined
through routes a more effective deterent? People and groups have to make
their own judgements about that ... but I'd guess that impenetratable
barriers between site and neighbours can only breed suspicion and resentment
which no amount of open days will ever overcome.

Thanks to those who mailed me info on the Fellowship of Intentional
Communities. The www page recomended by Fred and others
<> is indeed a great resource. Check it out.

Graham Meltzer

  • site design Blake F. Cullimore, January 26 1995
    • site design Graham Meltzer, January 29 1995
    • RE: site design Rob Sandelin, January 30 1995

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