Open Letter to Katie and Chuck
From: allenbutcher (
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2000 13:34:22 -0700 (MST)
Chuck and Katie,

Happy New Year to you and family and community!  I hope that all is well
in your part of the world.

I've been thinking of asking of you a question, so I thought to send it
along with a season's greeting.  Hope that you can take the time to let
me know your response.

Last summer I visited a friend near San Louis Obispo who is a retired
professor of architecture of the California Polytechnic Institute.  While
staying with him he mentioned to me that a friend of his earlier
introduced him to the cohousing book that the two of you coauthored, and
they determined that he was teaching at Cal Poly the same years that you
were likely taking classes there.  My friend also stated that if it
happened that he was teaching at the time that you were enrolled, it
would have been difficult for the two of you to have avoided all of his

So my question is, do you remember taking any classes from Professor
Henry H. Hammer?  I don't know exactly what classes he taught, but his
name would likely be memorable to most of his students.

In addition to it being interesting that I might happen to know one of
your former instructors, the more  significant coincidence (which you may
already know, actually) is that Henry Hammer is a former member of Twin
Oaks Community (TO), living there in the '70s and possibly the early '80s
(I'd have to check on that).  Although it isn't a consensus among current
and exmembers of TO, I at least consider Henry to be the second most
influential person in the development of Twin Oaks, and the whole
Federation of communities built around it.  Henry designed and/or managed
the construction of half of all the buildings at both TO and East Wind
(EW) communities.  He also initiated and helped to manage the Social
Planning Process at TO which resulted in, among other things, the "Small
Living Group" (SLG) concept which then informed TO's, EW's and other
communities' architectual and land use design patterns, as well as many
aspects of the communities' social designs.  Henry also conceived and
developed a product still produced by the community, the "hammock chair,"
and spearheaded much of the community's experimentation with solar energy

The implication is that Henry Hammer may have had a profound influence
upon not only the most successful contemporary secular communal
intentional community movement, but also upon the development of the most
successful contemporary secular collective intentional community
movement.  This influence has been summarized by one exmember of TO who
worked on construction projects under Henry in her statement that:  

"You (Henry) ... introduced me to the concept that environment shapes 
behavior, so you should design your environment to suit the behavior you 
want to encourage."     Josie Kinkade, M.D.  (email message, September
14, 1999)

Of course, Henry is not the first person to have recognized the potential
for the built environment to affect behavior.  Charles Fourier wrote
about this via his concept of "passional attraction" ("Traite de
lAssociation Domestique Agricole," 1822) which, as you probably know,
influenced the 19th Century Associationist communities in the US,
including Brook Farm, famous as a center of New England
Transcendentalism.  The next time I get a chance I'll ask Henry if he is
familiar with Charles Fourier's work.  I rather suspect that he is.  Of
course, we also must extrapolate that B.F. Skinner's concept of
behavioral modification was a strong influence upon the development of
Henry's architectural philosophy, given that behavioral psychology is the
founding influence of TO, and therefore probably what brought Henry to
the community.  And of course similar work with design and society was
published in the '70s with "A Pattern Language" and other works by the
architect Christopher Alexander and his collaborators, which were studied
at TO and EW, and probably at Cal Poly as well.

Even if the evolution of your, Katie and Chuck, emphasis upon design for
community is traceable exclusively to your exposure to Danish cohousing,
it is at least interesting to me, and perhaps to you and others, that
your academic environment at least was exposed to indigenous concepts
similar to those which inspired Danish "bofaellesskaber."  

I certainly think that it is a positive thing that your book "Cohousing:
A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves" emphasizes that your work
was primarily influenced by contemporary Danish communities.  You could
have easily emphasized in your book any number of other influences, such
as those above.  For instance, I noticed the listing in the book's
bibliography of Professor Dolores Hayden's work, "Redesigning the
American Dream," which is one of my favorite inspirational works on
social design.  Your use of a Hayden quote for chapter 15 of "CoHousing"
is the only non-Danish-person quote I could find in the first edition of
"CoHousing."  In "Redesigning ..."  Hayden presents Danish communities
(Tinggarden appears in both your and her book), and in her other books
she discusses Charles Fourier's concepts and the communities which
resulted, and she even mentions in her first book, "Seven American
Utopias," Twin Oaks Community in glancing references, along with a range
of other American intentional communities.  There are just a few other
non-Danish books referenced in your bibliography, not including, which I
find interesting, "A Pattern Language."  I'd have thought that to have
been a significant influence.

However, to reiterate, I think that it was an astute movement-building
strategy to focus your book and all of your community advocacy work upon
the most significant contemporary experiential model that best evidenced
the values and designs which you desired to advocate.  

In my search for a similar model during the mid 1980s I had discovered
Danish and other northern European intentional community models, thanks
to being in touch with the European community network of those years and
to attending an academic conference in Scotland in 1988 (ICSA).  I even
took with me Hayden's "Redesigning ..." to that conference for reading on
plane and train.  Upon returning and later discovering "CoHousing" I
recognized all of the potential for your work to nurture the community
movement that I thought at the time that I wanted to build in America. 
Subsequently, I left my home community tradition and served the cohousing
movement as best I could for the following ten years.  (I'm told that the
cohousing community I founded here in Denver, but which I can not afford,
should actually start construction this year.)  Finally, last summer I
found that the connection between the communal and collective community
movements which I have served may be more significant than I previously
knew, and so I am asking for more indepth information on the ideological
antecedents of and inspirations for your work.

In case you may be wondering, Henry is living as of last October, in New
Delhi, India, accompanying his wife on a three-year academic appointment.
 A couple years ago he had a serious injury while hiking in the Sierra's
which left half of his body nearly paralyzed.  He is overcoming much of
that handicap and can now walk with a cane.  I currently have no direct
way of contacting Henry, although I'm sure that he will be getting in
touch again with us current and exTO members eventually.

I imagine that most of what I've written is not news to you.  Yet any
comments you may have on this potential philosophical connection of
design theory and application I would certainly be interested in

All the Best,

A. Allen Butcher
PO Box 1666, Denver, CO  80201-1666
allenbutcher [at]  
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