Re: Hiring an Architect
From: Berrins (
Date: Fri, 1 Nov 2002 07:51:01 -0700 (MST)
In a message dated 10/31/02 12:29:59 PM, robert [at] writes:

<< I was wondering if any cohousers out there who was involved in hiring an 
architect could share what you've learned.  Are there suggestions you would 
make for how to go about the process?  Pitfalls  to avoid?  What about hiring 
an architect from within the group?  Any  feedback would be appreciated.


Robert Arjet
Central Austin Cohousing >>

    Obviously, anyone with direct experience with cohousing is better than 
none.  Both of our architects were living in cohousing (and still do) and, 
IMHO, did a great job.  
    On the other hand, the site planner, who is one of the busiest landscape 
architect groups in town, did a nice job with the basic layout but weren't 
aware of some key design elements when laying out the site (e.g., kids play 
structure, placement of utility boxes and fire plugs, allowance for future 
outbuildings and potential recreational sites, like a pool).   They were 
probably designing your basic condo development, with a few cohousing design 
concepts they read in a book and/or someone told them about.  
    What makes cohousing completely different is the paradigm shift in how 
people in the community make use of the common areas.  In a traditional 20th 
century setting, everyone has their own "english manor" and interaction 
between households isn't even an afterthought.  In cohousing, interaction is 
what it's all about.  Cohousing site design should not only encourage 
interaction but embrace it and be able to envision all the details.  Hiring a 
site designer with experience in cohousing is easily as important as the 
architect's experience.
    After experience, consider how well your architect (and site planner) 
work with groups.  It's easy to get swayed by beautiful pictures and an 
authorative presence.  Experience with small house design is also essential.  
Remember that your common house may provide some areas that you don't need to 
duplicate in your house (guest rooms, large party space, laundry facilities, 
work shops, etc.) but also remember that common houses sometimes don't get 
built right away and, even after they are built, it might take years before 
all the spaces you plan in it are built out.  That's a lot of priority 
juggling.  Your architect will need to be able to process all the different 
individual priorities and come up with a design that works for your group.
    That's about all I can think of for now.  Good luck!

    Pathways Cohousing
    Northampton, MA
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