Re: Design expertise or local architects
From: cynthia . e . carpenter (
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 18:47:58 -0600 (MDT)

Cambridge Cohousing was mostly designed by a local architect working with one of
our developer partners - who was and is very committed to cohousing, intended to
live in the finished product and now does.  I think there are a variety of
opinions within the community about the pros and cons of this approach, but
IMHO, it would have been better to use experienced cohousing architects.

Having a local, member designer seemed like it would ensure congruence between
the interests of the architect and the interests of the community, but it
backfired in some ways we didn't anticipate.  To this day, I resent some of the
design decisions made because I believe they were made on the basis of our
developer's personal preferences as a resident-to-be, not what was best for the
community.  This may or may not be true in fact, but be aware that you will
probably have this kind of legacy among at least some of your membership if you
choose a local or member architect.  There are lots of conflicts you will have
to resolve when you're living in cohousing - why add this issue to them?

Also, near the end of the design phase, we asked Katie McCamant for a review of
our design documents and, as Kate from Bellingham wrote, the value of prior
cohousing design and experience was apparent.  She was able to quickly see some
programming issues that we hadn't anticipated and help us identify possible

On the positive side, our local developers had the experience and connections to
effectively negotiate a complicated local real estate and permitting scene.  For
example, they recommended that we not purchase one parcel of land partly because
of an aggressively anti-development neighborhood association, something that
would have been hard to know about without local development experience.

- Cindy
Cambridge Cohousing

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