higher density cohousing
From: Grace Kim (graceschemataworkshop.com)
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2006 21:48:16 -0800 (PST)
I think you're asking some good questions.
Many people I've met both in the US and Denmark started off looking for
urban locations and while quite happy with their resulting community,
they feel as if they have "settled" for a suburban or rural location.

There are not many urban or large projects to hold up as examples.
And likely for a reason...it might not work.

While I am an urban dweller myself, and a firm proponent of cohousing, I
don't know that large communities in a high rise would work so well.
The problem is that people drive into the parking garage and take the
elevator up to their floor (perhaps w/ a quick stop at the mailboxes)
and then into their units.  There is limited opportunity for informal
interactions.  Perhaps if a high rise was divided up into 5 floors to
define a "subgroup" and mail delivery for this subgroup occurred on a
"common house" level w/ a shared kitchen/dining facility it might work.
But I don't know of a US example of this.  

The latest real estate phenomena has been the return to high rise condos
w/ cohousing-type amenities such as a large "club room/party room",
guest suites, conference room, roof deck, hobby rooms, fitness room,
etc.  Living in one myself (closest thing we could find to urban
cohousing in Seattle for the moment) I know that it can work and people
value these amenities, but we have no sense of community (primarily
because as a whole, the residents of our 170 unit building did not
purchase w/ the INTENTION to live in community.  We find community with
our neighbors, but we make a concerted effort to do this.

A great North American example (but not the density you are talking
about) is Quayside Village in Vancouver, BC.  It's a 5 story mixed use
building near a neighbor commercial center.  It felt very urban, the
common house was very effectively used (all functions occurred on main
level where residents entered) and had a strong sense of communitas.  

The Swedish highrise (actually it's a mid-rise I think about 10 floors)
that was mentioned is about 84 units.  Their common house is located on
the 5th floor.  Dorit Fromm's book Collaborative Communities (Van
Nostrand Reinhold: 1991) has a good description of it as well as floor
plans.  In fact her book has a number of higher density/midrise examples
in Sweden (see p.76 of book for a list - it indicates communities with
up to 290 and 328 units, and several in the 100's).

Tinggaarden in Denmark has several hundred units in the 2 phases of the
project - but I believe that they broke down the scale of the community
by having subgroups w/ separate common houses.  But this is not a high
rise or urban example.  

So that's enough babbling.  If you want to talk more, feel free to
contact me off-line.

grace h. kim, aia
schemata workshop
an architectural collaborative
159 western ave west, #483
seattle, wa 98119

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