|Open Letter to Katie and Chuck||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: allenbutcher (allenbutcherjuno.com)|
|Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2000 13:34:22 -0700 (MST)|
Chuck and Katie, Happy New Year to you and family and community! I hope that all is well in your part of the world. I've been thinking of asking of you a question, so I thought to send it along with a season's greeting. Hope that you can take the time to let me know your response. Last summer I visited a friend near San Louis Obispo who is a retired professor of architecture of the California Polytechnic Institute. While staying with him he mentioned to me that a friend of his earlier introduced him to the cohousing book that the two of you coauthored, and they determined that he was teaching at Cal Poly the same years that you were likely taking classes there. My friend also stated that if it happened that he was teaching at the time that you were enrolled, it would have been difficult for the two of you to have avoided all of his classes. So my question is, do you remember taking any classes from Professor Henry H. Hammer? I don't know exactly what classes he taught, but his name would likely be memorable to most of his students. In addition to it being interesting that I might happen to know one of your former instructors, the more significant coincidence (which you may already know, actually) is that Henry Hammer is a former member of Twin Oaks Community (TO), living there in the '70s and possibly the early '80s (I'd have to check on that). Although it isn't a consensus among current and exmembers of TO, I at least consider Henry to be the second most influential person in the development of Twin Oaks, and the whole Federation of communities built around it. Henry designed and/or managed the construction of half of all the buildings at both TO and East Wind (EW) communities. He also initiated and helped to manage the Social Planning Process at TO which resulted in, among other things, the "Small Living Group" (SLG) concept which then informed TO's, EW's and other communities' architectual and land use design patterns, as well as many aspects of the communities' social designs. Henry also conceived and developed a product still produced by the community, the "hammock chair," and spearheaded much of the community's experimentation with solar energy designs. The implication is that Henry Hammer may have had a profound influence upon not only the most successful contemporary secular communal intentional community movement, but also upon the development of the most successful contemporary secular collective intentional community movement. This influence has been summarized by one exmember of TO who worked on construction projects under Henry in her statement that: "You (Henry) ... introduced me to the concept that environment shapes behavior, so you should design your environment to suit the behavior you want to encourage." Josie Kinkade, M.D. (email message, September 14, 1999) Of course, Henry is not the first person to have recognized the potential for the built environment to affect behavior. Charles Fourier wrote about this via his concept of "passional attraction" ("Traite de lAssociation Domestique Agricole," 1822) which, as you probably know, influenced the 19th Century Associationist communities in the US, including Brook Farm, famous as a center of New England Transcendentalism. The next time I get a chance I'll ask Henry if he is familiar with Charles Fourier's work. I rather suspect that he is. Of course, we also must extrapolate that B.F. Skinner's concept of behavioral modification was a strong influence upon the development of Henry's architectural philosophy, given that behavioral psychology is the founding influence of TO, and therefore probably what brought Henry to the community. And of course similar work with design and society was published in the '70s with "A Pattern Language" and other works by the architect Christopher Alexander and his collaborators, which were studied at TO and EW, and probably at Cal Poly as well. Even if the evolution of your, Katie and Chuck, emphasis upon design for community is traceable exclusively to your exposure to Danish cohousing, it is at least interesting to me, and perhaps to you and others, that your academic environment at least was exposed to indigenous concepts similar to those which inspired Danish "bofaellesskaber." I certainly think that it is a positive thing that your book "Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves" emphasizes that your work was primarily influenced by contemporary Danish communities. You could have easily emphasized in your book any number of other influences, such as those above. For instance, I noticed the listing in the book's bibliography of Professor Dolores Hayden's work, "Redesigning the American Dream," which is one of my favorite inspirational works on social design. Your use of a Hayden quote for chapter 15 of "CoHousing" is the only non-Danish-person quote I could find in the first edition of "CoHousing." In "Redesigning ..." Hayden presents Danish communities (Tinggarden appears in both your and her book), and in her other books she discusses Charles Fourier's concepts and the communities which resulted, and she even mentions in her first book, "Seven American Utopias," Twin Oaks Community in glancing references, along with a range of other American intentional communities. There are just a few other non-Danish books referenced in your bibliography, not including, which I find interesting, "A Pattern Language." I'd have thought that to have been a significant influence. However, to reiterate, I think that it was an astute movement-building strategy to focus your book and all of your community advocacy work upon the most significant contemporary experiential model that best evidenced the values and designs which you desired to advocate. In my search for a similar model during the mid 1980s I had discovered Danish and other northern European intentional community models, thanks to being in touch with the European community network of those years and to attending an academic conference in Scotland in 1988 (ICSA). I even took with me Hayden's "Redesigning ..." to that conference for reading on plane and train. Upon returning and later discovering "CoHousing" I recognized all of the potential for your work to nurture the community movement that I thought at the time that I wanted to build in America. Subsequently, I left my home community tradition and served the cohousing movement as best I could for the following ten years. (I'm told that the cohousing community I founded here in Denver, but which I can not afford, should actually start construction this year.) Finally, last summer I found that the connection between the communal and collective community movements which I have served may be more significant than I previously knew, and so I am asking for more indepth information on the ideological antecedents of and inspirations for your work. In case you may be wondering, Henry is living as of last October, in New Delhi, India, accompanying his wife on a three-year academic appointment. A couple years ago he had a serious injury while hiking in the Sierra's which left half of his body nearly paralyzed. He is overcoming much of that handicap and can now walk with a cane. I currently have no direct way of contacting Henry, although I'm sure that he will be getting in touch again with us current and exTO members eventually. I imagine that most of what I've written is not news to you. Yet any comments you may have on this potential philosophical connection of design theory and application I would certainly be interested in receiving! All the Best, Allen A. Allen Butcher PO Box 1666, Denver, CO 80201-1666 allenbutcher [at] juno.com
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