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Co-housing in America 

Our common house - design, theory, social

Using the built environment to develop supportive communities

 

This research used an action research process to examine the cohousing model and to explore the linkages between its social and physical patterns. 

By Maruja Torres-Antonini

December 2001

 

Fred H. Olson, fholson at cohousing.org , maintainer of this page

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the

University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the

Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Source: http://l.cohousing.org/torres.htm

 

Document entier PDF: http://etd.fcla.edu/UF/UFE0000360/torres_m.PDF

 également dans contributions

  Chairperson: Mary Joyce Hasell

 

Major Department: College of Design , Construction and Planning Awareness of the need for alternative community models that are socially and ecologically healthy has led some Americans to try cohousing, where a renewed "sense of community" and a move toward environmental stewardship are encouraged through design and everyday practices. In cohousing, individual households join to create a community by participating in the design and administration of the common property, sharing tasks, assisting each other, gathering for communal meals, and establishing a social network reminiscent of extended family structures. Further dissemination of cohousing requires understanding its model. Of particular interest is finding out whether and to what extent the physical patterns of cohousing communities contribute to advance residents toward more sustainable and socially healthier living. Substantial and continuous reference to "social contact design" as an essential component of cohousing suggests that specific physical features of these communities_increased density, inward-facing layouts, grouped structures and emphasis on pedestrian circulation_may be a way to represent, encourage or channel the social interaction sought by their residents.

 

This research used an action research process to examine the cohousing model and to explore the linkages between its social and physical patterns. It relied on qualitative formal analysis of architectural drawings and photographs to describe the physical setting of a case study community and on experiential methods such as participant observation and interviews to document the behaviors of its residents. The inquiry centered on the desired interaction and on the design features of the community involved in the development and consolidation of any of those behaviors.

 

The linkages between the social and physical patterns observed in the case study community are explained in light of environment-behavior theories. Results showed that the social contact design strategies implemented in the case study community facilitate social contact among neighbors and foster feelings of safety within the community; and to some extent contribute to existence of a neighborhood support network and allow residents to participate in community governance and maintenance. Results suggest that cohousing may be a viable model for creating socially and environmentally healthy neighborhoods with a sense of community.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

1 CREATING COMMUNITY IN AMERICA

Quest for Community

Expert Approach: Community by Design

Alternative Approach: Community by Action

Cohousing Approach: Community by Design and Action

Opportunity for Research

 

2 LITERATURE REVIEW

American Cohousing Literature

Cohousing in Context

Cohousing and Society

Cohousing in Detail

Void in the Cohousing Literature

 

3 METHODOLOGY: RESEARCHING SOCIAL CONTACT AND DESIGN IN A

COHOUSING COMMUNITY

Action Science, Research, and Social Change

Methodological Considerations: Applying Action Research to Cohousing

Research Plan

Case Study Strategy

Experiential Techniques

Analytical Techniques

Environmental Design Theory

 

4 PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL FACTORS OF A COHOUSING COMMUNITY

Development Process

Social Profile

Physical Profile

 

5 DESIGN IN A COHOUSING COMMUNITY: ARCHITECTURAL ANALYSIS

Architecture of the Commons

Layout

Ordering principles

Proportion and scale

Space and enclosure

Circulation

Architecture of the Common House

Architecture of the Typical Unit

Social Contact Features

 

6 SOCIAL CONTACT IN A COHOUSING COMMUNITY: PARTICIPATORY

RESEARCH FINDINGS

Interaction

Participation

Support

Safety

 

7 DESIGN AND SOCIAL CONTACT IN A COHOUSING COMMUNITY

Interaction, Participation and Support

Affordances of the common house

Affordances of the commons

Affordances for participation and support

Affordances for unity

Community and Privacy

Feeling Safe in the Community

 

8 THEORY FOR COHOUSING DESIGN

Theoretical Considerations

Intentional Neighborhood and Social Contact Design

Cohousing, Action and Social change

 

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