Re: Streets and driveways.
From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (
Date: Sat, 30 Nov 1996 15:30:44 -0700 (MST)
Joani Blank wrote:
>it is the fact all of the cohousing residents know each other very
>well that makes the community space not feel like "public" space.

>The feeling of semiprivacy that is created when ALL the neighbors know
>each other well does result in strangers usually staying out unless invited,

and Thomas Alexander replied

>        You seem to be suggesting that two identical developments
> would be treated differently by strangers just because the people
> living there know each other.  Strangers, by definition, wouldn't
> know that the people there knew each other.  There must be more to
> it than that.  Perhaps they would LOOK different, or there could be
> a gateway, or the residents would greet "strangers" and tell them
> (subtly or otherwise) that they were trespassing.

My resolution to this would be that it is the fact that all the 
neighbours know each other so well that creates the *expectation* and 
*need* for privacy, but Thomas is right that this expectation does have 
to be expressed architecturally, or strangers are not going to pick up 
the message.

At N St, where I live, the central community space is very strongly 
separated from the street (You can't really see in, and you have to 
enter via a wooden entrance gate with a sign between two houses).  I 
value this, and I think that there are a whole lot of things that 
happen in the space which could not happen if there were strangers 
there.  One example is that two year olds can wander around pretty 
freely.  Another example is that people can sit nude in the hot tub, or 
stand around cooling off outside the sauna.  I like to piss in my 
garden at night so that I'm not wasting water and nitrogen (or maybe 
I'm unconsciously marking my territory :-).  I could *never* do that if 
I thought strangers were walking down the street, but I know it's not 
going to freak other community residents.  I pretty much don't feel a 
need for curtains on the community side of the house because I don't 
mind if the folks here see me as I work in the kitchen or whatever.  
That might be different if strangers were walking through.

There are some communities that have much less of an architectural 
separation from the neighbourhood.  For example, Nyland doesn't have 
much of that quality of separation, in my view.  (They have a sign, but 
otherwise their entrance just kind of looks like another street).  
There is a whole spectrum on this question.  It would be very 
interesting to know what activities happen or don't happen in the space 
as a function of "architectural separation."  

Stuart Staniford-Chen
N St Cohousing.
Cohousing Network Webweaver

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