Community and design
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 10 Jul 1997 08:48:58 -0500
I have posted about this before, so I will be brief (for me).  Design has in 
my experience nothing to do with the level of community in a place. There are 
dozens, no, hundreds of intentional communities that have terrible social 
designs and enjoy great sense of community amoung the participants. One of the 
most intense communities I have ever personally experienced has all the homes 
on acre lots, totally visually separated from each other. 

I have also been to well designed cohousing places that had very little sense 
of community. Community does not come from the buildings, the pathways or even 
the commonhouse, it comes from people and their expectations. If you expect 
community, and you want it, it will happen, no matter what the layout.  That's 
what the word, "intentional"  in intentional community refers to.

Community is expressed when your neighbor is having their in-laws over and you 
invite their kids to your house so the adults can clean up for their mother in 
laws visit, its when you mow somebody elses lawn because you want to surprise 
them, its coming home from work early so you can go with a neighbor and hold 
her hand at her cancer exam. It's found in all the little things you do for 
each other, and for the group because, like love, you care about somebody 
elses happiness.

Now, don't get me wrong, if you are going to be a developer, and you are going 
to create 30 new homes from scratch, its smart to design it so people can bump 
into  each other. But don't fool yourself and beleive that this is all it is. 
More than a few groups have made the terrible mistake of thinking: " once we 
get it built, THEN we'll have community". This is a large mistake. You must 
build community as you go through the development process, otherwise you move 
in and.....all you know about each other are your meeting styles.  

Community is built through sharing work, celebrations, your histories, your 
lives. It comes from giving of yourself and working for the best intentions of 
the whole group. Like a good relationship it takes commitment and work, you 
need to have those parties, those celebrations of joy and recognition, 
otherwise the relationship goes stale, people get bored and drop out. 

I just had a long conversation with a wonderful woman who just dropped out of 
a forming cohousing project after giving it year. She left because, There was 
no evidence to her, that the group cared much about each other at all. "They 
were just acting like a bunch of squabbling developers, they never affirmed 
each other, nor seemed particularily interested in being a community".

Don't let this happen to your group. Build your "community" as you do your 
development work. Otherwise, whats the point?

Rob Sandelin
Cedar Village (forming)
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