Re: Architectural Review
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2005 08:35:24 -0800 (PST)

On Jan 29, 2005, at 9:19 AM, Dahako [at] wrote:

Hi Sharon and all -

Eastern Village is working on a walkway policy for our outdoor balconies right now. The point person for the policy is an architect with an eclectic eye for the artistic, so the group is pretty much trusting him for now. It may be that since we are starting so early on this, it will be less of an issue
later. The style he's recommending is sort of eclectic folk-art

I think this is an excellent approach. Choose a "look" that everyone understands (at least to some extent) and go for it. Have a person identified that everyone can talk to if they have questions -- two people is even better. I like having an alternative. At any given point in time, one person may be easier to talk to than another.

Eventually people will find the community boundaries. One of the hard things is that most people don't even think about these issues until confronted with them so at best it's an evolving process of trial of error. At worst it some people will go for the free for all, not because they like it or think it is a good idea but because doing anything else requires thought and action.

The way we designed our courtyard space, there is no obvious way for first floor residents to expand their "territory" into community planted space. And walkways and balconies allow only minimal room after allowing for passageway
wide enough for a wheelchair.

An important design issue that I wouldn't have considered before living in a self-managed community. In professionally managed, large condos, personal in common space is outlawed from the beginning. Anything put in common space just disappears like trash. Stuff in limited commonspace has to conform or the resident is fined -- often without a first warning.

But in cohousing the lines between "mine", "yours", and "ours" is much less clear -- geographically as well as experientially. Some of this can be clarified in the design process. A plot of land that is easily accessible by only one unit will be used as limited common element but the owner of that unit may expect that it be maintained as common element. One element of design is to make the property intuitively "readable" as public or private.

Also in bylaws -- we are having great confusions over limited and common elements. As written the bylaws are just undoable. The upper walkways which are cement corridors for 4-5 units are defined as limited common elements that are supposed to be maintained by the residents. The problem with this is that the walkways are structural elements that require professional maintenance and replacement. It is in the best interests of the community for these to be maintained by the Association because they affect the integrity of everyone's investment in the community. It is unlikely that any repair company would even contract with me personally to fix an element which is so obviously connected to so many other structures.

I gather someone is exploring how people with exterior doors can hang art on
the outside wall next to them without damaging the building's skin.


I think our idea is to try to have fun with this, and invoke our mediation
policy if anything gets sticky.

I think this sounds good too. But the aesthetic issues will still get dicey. Like our smiley face vs color field quilt. We did find a solution that made everyone happy but it took effort on the part of two people who considered and tested options (privately) that will eventually go to a meeting if we continue with the project.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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