Re: Creating creative, non-traditional cohousing
From: Hank Obermayer (
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 17:05:29 -0500
>Laura Weathered said re the Chicago Artists' Community:
>>The good news is that we structured a strong community before we tackled
>>the bricks and mortar, consensus works and we won't take no for an answer.
>>Can members of the cohousing list offer advice, or effective strategies
>>going against traditional thinking of who constitutes a community?
>I wasn't exactly sure what you were asking about "traditional thinking."
>If you mean that you're creating a community exclusively of artists, not
>a "normal" cross-section of folks who show up in cohousing groups, then
>here are some thoughts:

Laura was talking about non-traditional thinking about community. This does
not make me think of cohousing. When I think about cohousing (& the
intentional communities movement in general) community usually means a
residential group. An even more standard use of the word community refers
to a neighborhood, or a subcultural group, including many people who don't
know each other at all. But there are also other kinds of communities and
intentional communities, that are not residential or geograhic based.
Religious congregations are on eof the best examples I can think of, but I
also know of other kinds of non-residential intentional communities, as
well as hybrid communities.

When I was in college I lived in a student cooperative house. 19 of us
lived in a victorian mansion and cooked our food together, took care of the
house, etc. That was one level of community. Then there were a few people
who were part of our food system. They ate at our house and shared
responsibilities for cooking, shopping, etc. with the people who lived in
the house. Then there were friends of people in the house who spent a lot
of time at our house, or were just connected to a bunch of people in the
house. They were part of a larger community based at our house. Then there
were all the past residents of the house, who we also considered part of
our community, to varying extents depending on how long it had been since
they had lived in the house, and how much they visited.

I'm part of a community that lives together for a few days every year while
camping and making art/performance. We see each other regularly in the
urban region we live in, but the base of our sense of community is these
camping trips.

There are many political community organizing projects all over the country
that are trying to build community specifically to create social change.

A general term I have heard is "Communities of Consciousness." This means
communities that come together as a community by choice - like cohousing
and intentional communities, as well as other things. Churches are

I think creating a residential intentional community (like cohousing) can
be a wonderful tool for creating another level of community. The cohousing
development becomes the "community center" for some larger community,
whether it is based on geography or on shared interests.

There are also a bunch of artist live/work cooperative projects around the
country. Some of them started as something more cohousing-like. Project
Artaud, in San Francisco, for example, started in the early 70's and had a
community kitchen, gathering areas, and shared studios of various kinds. By
now things are much more private, and there hasn't been a community kitchen
for years - all the units are privately owned/controlled (as units in a
coop) except for a large theater, which is still run separately.

Laura, you may want to talk to people who were involved in forming some of
these, or know the histories. I also know of an old one in Emeryville (Bay
Area), and Boston. I'm sure there are many others.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful.


Hank Obermayer             If you plan for one year, plant a field of rice.
hobermayer [at]     If you plan for ten years, plant a tree.
Commonnest:                If you plan for 100 years, teach the people.
   The San Francisco                            - Chinese proverb
   Coopereative Housing Network (415) 974-4384

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