Cohousing

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Cohousing is a type of living situation in which private homes or rooms are clustered around shared spaces, and typically the residents form a type of intentional community with some shared mission or social values. 

 

Background

The modern theory of cohousing originated in Denmark in the 1960s among groups of families who were dissatisfied with existing housing and communities that they felt did not meet their needs. Bodil Graae wrote a newspaper article titled "Children Should Have One Hundred Parents," spurring a group of 50 families to organize around a community project in 1967. This group developed the cohousing project Sættedammen, which is the oldest known modern cohousing community in the world. Another key organizer was Jan Gudmand Høyer who drew inspiration from his architectural studies at Harvard and interaction with experimental U.S. communities of the era. He published the article "The Missing Link between Utopia and the Dated Single Family House"  in 1968, converging a second group.

The Danish term bofællesskab (living community) was introduced to North America as cohousing by two American architects, Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, who visited several cohousing communities and wrote a book about it. The book resonated with some existing and forming communities, such as Sharingwood in Washington state and N Street in California, who embraced the cohousing concept as a crystallization of what they were already about. Though most cohousing groups seek to develop multi-generational communities, some focus on creating senior communities. Charles Durrett later wrote a handbook on creating senior cohousing. The first community in the United States to be designed, constructed and occupied specifically for cohousing is Muir Commons in Davis, California.  Architects, Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett were responsible for the programming and the design of the site plan, common house and private houses.

There are precedents for cohousing in the 1920s in New York with the cooperative apartment housing with shared facilities and good social interaction. The Siheyuan, or quadrangle design of housing in China has a shared courtyard and is thus similar in some respects to cohousing.

 

References