Re: participation in decision making
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 8 Jan 2015 08:19:11 -0800 (PST)
On Jan 8, 2015, at 8:45 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> wrote:

> Cohousing is about culture and lifestyle, not about real estate. 

Yes it was my point that (1) it isn't about the process of designing the 
architecture and (2) the architectural design and redesign goes on and on. You 
don't design it and its done.

But the design of the architecture does support the culture and the lifestyle, 
and influences it greatly. When our community was developing, the developer 
didn't believe that we could get enough people interested in living in 
cohousing so he designed it in two parts -- town houses along a green on the 
west and an apartment style building on the west. These are visually divided by 
fire stair towers and an arbor. The apartment style building is around a pizza 
and the common house.

Initially only the apartment style half was intended to be cohousing.

I believe that split does influence how people relate to the community. Once a 
friend said I should talk to people directly instead of using email. I said but 
how will I find them? I would have to play phone tag or sit around waiting for 
them to come home. I asked how she contacted people. She said, I just wait 
until I see them walking by and go talk to them.

Her unit has two windows on the green and close to the piazza. One is her 
kitchen window and other is by her dining table. Although I have windows on 
three sides of my unit on the second floor, none of them looks out on the green 
or any other place where people are walking by. Except the compost bin and the 
guest rooms. Not frequent walk-bys.

I purposely chose an apartment style cohousing because I can't imagine that 
people who live in single family houses can be so integrated. It's just so easy 
for us to pop-in next door or leave things for each other outside our units. 
The CH is more like the lobby of a hotel for us. The people on the green have 
to put on coats and walk there. Some park on the street on the west because the 
parking lot and CH is a block away.

We recently painted the interior of our CH and I supervised the job. I was 
stunned to discover how many people had not a clue that the place was covered 
with plastic and canvas drapes, scaffolding, painters, etc. They wanted to hold 
their regular movement classes and meals. They lived on the green and hadn't 
been inside for more than a week. I normally go in 2-3 times a day. I don't 
have to got outside, except across a corridor from my door to the CH door.

I expressed a concern to a community I visited recently about the positioning 
of their CH. It was in a lovely spot on top of mountain -- felt like a mountain 
but I guess it was a hill. But the duplexes and triplexes were down the hill. 
Not far but a hill is a hill. Another community had the CH not in the center of 
the houses but at one end. Sometimes this is necessary for lot size or utility 
connection reasons, but it must affect the relationship of those "at the other 
end" and those who are closer to the common spaces. 

Cornerstone handled this nicely by including lots of spaces in the residential 
building for gatherings and meetings. That brings people to all parts of the 

So designing the place together is only the first way the community bonds.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
"Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere." Albert 

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