What is Cohousing?
Cohousing is an intentional community or neighborhood where people know and look after each other. It's intentionality that sets cohousing apart from other types of housing models. Members of cohousing come together to actively create and share in a community, organizing around common characteristics like building relationships, neighborhood design, community participation, and shared values. Cohousing is often pedestrian-friendly, managed, maintained, and governed by the residents, and includes participation is shared activities and meals.
In cohousing, each family or member has a private residence. The type of residence can vary, from single family homes to multi-family models. These private residences have all the amenities you would find in a typical dwelling (bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, living spaces), giving autonomy to each family unit. However, in addition to these private spaces, cohousing members contribute to the maintenance and use of substantial shared spaces, both indoor and out, that link the private homes. Of the shared spaces utilized in cohousing, the Common House is ubiquitous.
The Common House
The "living room" of a community, the Common House sets an impression for visitors about cohousing, indicates what a community might value, and can change perceptions about the benefits of living in community. Schemata Workshop has analyzed dozens of common houses in Denmark and North America. The analysis and research done has allowed us to developed a depth of knowledge that gives our firm a unique understanding of what makes the most effective, friendly, and welcoming common houses.
Some of this analysis took place in 2004 when Grace received a research fellowship as part of her study at the University of Washington. The fellowship allowed her to dedicate a year to immersing herself in cohousing culture, with an emphasis on the analysis of Common House design. This in-depth study and analysis is detailed in her thesis and book Design of the Cohousing Common House. Following Christopher Alexander's concept of Pattern Language, Grace Kim thoroughly documented the necessary programmatic and design elements for a successful Common House. The Common House typically includes a kitchen, dining area or great room, play areas for children, laundry, and lounging areas, though the specific make up of each Common House will depend on the needs of its users. Shared workshops, exercise rooms, libraries, or guest rooms might also be included in the amenities of the Common House.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy of Design of the Cohousing Common House.
Schemata Workshop has worked on the planning, development, design, and construction of many cohousing projects, including Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing in Seattle and Daybreak Cohousing in Portland, Oregon. Grace and Mike have both spent significant time in cohousing communities across North American and Europe, researching all aspects of cohousing: financial structure, building design, ecological design, and cohousing culture. Our knowledge and understanding of the cohesion afforded by the Common House also informs our work in designing and programming of other, non-cohousing, multi-family and mixed-use work, and allows us to think broadly about how the public and shared spaces we create can foster community.
Grace and Mike actively share their extensive knowledge of cohousing through many local and national events. These presentations and meetings include Lessons on Cohousing 101, meet ups for those interested in pursuing cohousing, and providing mentorship to budding cohousing communities across the country.
If you are interested in cohousing or in attending these events, please contact us at email@example.com.
Posters of Danish Cohousing Communities
As part of Grace Kim's 2004 cohousing research, a selection of Danish Cohousing Communities were documented and are available for electronic use. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request full-size paper copies.
Tours of Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing (CHUC)
A general information session and tour of CHUC is typically available at 10am on the second Saturday of each month. To sign up, please visit our ongoing event page here. Contact Schemata Workshop at 206.285.1589 or email@example.com for more information.