Experimentdays 17: CoHousing Inclusive

A slightly belated post about the recent Experimentdays event here in Berlin, an international conference on self-organised, community-led housing, drawn together under the (now) broad banner of CoHousing*, and which included the launch of id22’s book on the conference’s theme of inclusivity:


Inclusiveness is a wide and contested term (as they say in academia) – meaning many things to many people. The overall theme, for me, was about moving the concept of collaborative housing projects away from what is so often a model that is organised by and benefits an almost exclusively white, middle class and wealthy group of people. If this is a challenge in Berlin (it definitely is) then how much more so in the UK, where the challenges involved in acquiring and keeping land in use for purposes other than pure speculation seem ever greater.

The book is rather good, by the way, and includes a series of case studies of projects around the world which have indeed managed to combine genuinely innovative community-based housing projects, with a view to wider social cohesion.

And what, in this context, are the implications for my own subject, of older people and CoHousing? In the UK and elsewhere, society’s perception of older people is at best ambivalent. Are they a group who suffer prejudice, stereotyping and exclusion? Or are they the Baby Boomers – the generation who have taken – and kept – the nation’s housing wealth? (Clue: both. Neither. It’s complicated).

I was co-organiser of one of the sessions during the event, titled: Is Cohousing for Life?, a workshop in which academics, practitioners and others with an interest. We looked at various scenarios around groups of older people who might have come together to intentionally create a cohousing community that is for (and by) older people, as against other models and forms where intergenerational support might be the primary idea, or (my own provocation) a group comprising a whole range of ages and generations, but whose older members feel in some ways that the support they give is not fully reciprocated.

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But maybe this is getting into too much detail for what’s meant to be an architecture blog. I want to write more, but maybe appropriate to take it elsewhere. If I do, I’ll let you know, but this is meant to be an architecture blog, I guess. So here’s some images of the much-discussed-and-now-architecturally-disappointing Möckernkiez.



*CoHousing? Cohousing? Co-housing? Everyone seems to use slight variations… I think I might go with CoHousing, as it looks the friendliest of these. I’ve previously discussed what I think is the definition, as something that includes a quite defined physical/architectural relationship of individual homes clustered around common facilities. Michael LaFonde, of id22, presents a broader (more inclusive, ha) definition in the CoHousing Inclusive book:

“The term CoHousing, closely related to community-led and collaborative housing, was coined in the 1980s by the American architects Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, who were influenced by a Danish model of community-led housing Bofaellesskab. CoHousing is now used as an umbrella term for a range of housing forms emphasizing self-organisation and a community orientation.”