A brief history of cohousing

Danish architect Jan Gudmand-Hoyer is the acknowledged founder of the cohousing movement, even though his first attempt in l964 to join together with friends in a supportive living arrangement failed.

He continued writing publicly about the concept, and defined it as collaborative housing that embraces a strong sense of community, an antidote to less-than-friendly subdivisions. Was this just a recycled, time-honored village concept, or a bold, new way to live cooperatively?

Others joined in the public discussion, including Bodil Graae, who wrote an article, "Children Should Have 100 Parents." Two groups with overlapping values and ideals emerged from this discussion and managed to build several villages together by 1973.

Since then, with refinements and adjustments to accommodate differing cultures, cohousing has become an international phenomenon with perhaps a hundred communities built and operating in many countries. At last count, 37 cohousing communities are up and running in the United States. Dozens of others are in the planning stages.

In the US, cohousing dovetailed with the communes that sprang up in the "hippified" 1960s. Today it also fits under the umbrella of "intentional communities." This includes such groups as those sharing common spiritual values, rural homesteading, voluntary simplicity groups, and sustainable-living education centers.

Charles Durrett and Kathryn McCamant, Berkeley, Calif., architects, wrote "Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves" in l988. The book is considered the "bible" of the cohousing world, and is required reading for anyone who wants to consider joining the Westwood Cohousing Community (see main story).

Finding close friendships and support and reaching consensus with your neighbors is the ideal of most members of cohousing communities, says Bill Fleming, who lives at Westwood and was the electrical-mechanical engineer for the project.

"You end up with modifications based on the dynamics of the group, but people who are attracted to this kind of collaborative living probably start with a more collaborative idea of how to do it. If they didn't, they wouldn't be here."

Find more information about cohousing at these Web sites:

*The Cohousing Network, www.cohousing.org

*Cohousing in Port Townsend, Wash., www.olypen.com/sstowell/rosewind

*Westwood Cohousing Community, http://west


(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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