RE: kitchen design/ Social levels
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 2 Mar 2006 09:50:47 -0800 (PST)
The notion of windows in the kitchen facing out into the community comes
from a variety of sources, including Alexanders, Pattern Language. The idea
is to create an inside/outside social  interface by connecting a place you
spend a lot of indoor  time to the outdoors so you can visually connect with
the outside patterns. If you spend more time in a home office than the
kitchen, and don't mind the interuption, then having a home office space
make that connection works just fine.  The goal is inside outside visual
connection. Kitchen are logical choices for this connection, but not the
only one.  Dining spaces also can make that connection.  

The inside/outside connection also has a lot to do with distance between
observers. The closer the outside pathway is to the inside interface the
more personal the connection becomes. So for example, if I am standing at my
kitchen sink looking out the window and person passes by at 6 feet, we make
eye contact and have a direct connection. If that person is 14 feet or more
away, then eye contact is less likely and the connection is less personal.
Close quarter (8 feet or less) inside/outside connections which require
individual acknowlegement with eye contact can lead to what is termed
socialiablity burnout, too many connections in too short a time. So where
your outside travelways are in terms of distance can influence who lives
there, as well as the patterns of traffic flow.  If I am a less socialable
inclined person, then too many connections might cause me to withdrawl. I
recall mediating in a community where a person put up kitchen curtains
because they felt overwhelmed by the frequency of social contact out their
window. While there was no agreement about NOT having curtains, no one else
did, thus the curtains violated the social norm of the group and caused

Cooperative communities, including cohousing, attract people with high
tolerances for social interaction, this is often a prime draw of this type
of living for those people. In cohousing it is sometimes the case that there
is a difference in socialibility between spouses, with one feeling
fullfilled , the other feeling overwhelmed. Making adjustments to social
interaction expectations to include the range of socialibility of the group
will provide your members with the best chance of fitting in and achieving
their own happiness. 

Rob Sandelin
Sharingwood Community
Naturalist, Writer
The Environmental Science School
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