Space (How It Looks)

January 26, 2010 | 34 comments
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Could we make zion building into a hobby? Like scrapbooking, except that it requires a little more money. And instead of gathering memories in a binder, you would gather loved ones in a community. Anyway, here are some visual examples of intentional communities that exist here in the United States and Canada.

neighborhood
Nevada City Cohousing in Nevada City, California (http://www.nccoho.org/)
Duwamish Cohousing, in West Seattle

Duwamish Cohousing, in West Seattle, Washington (http://flickr.com/photos/lifebegreen/sets/72157603650686298/)

Windsong Cohousing, in British Columbia, Canada

Windsong Cohousing, in British Columbia, Canada (http://flickr.com/photos/22039537@N07/2150742576/)

The above pictures are all cohousing communities. Another intentional community movement is “pocket neighborhoods”. Pocket neighborhoods are a compromise between cohousing and conventional suburban living. They have more privacy and less common property than a cohousing community, but the homes are still organized in a way to encourage community interaction. Here are some more pictures for you (these images all come from Ross Chapin Architects – http://www.rosschapin.com/Projects/projects.html):
Danielson Grove

Danielson Grove
Conover Commons
Conover Commons
Wyer's End
Wyer’s End
Salish Pond

Salish Pond

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34 Responses to Space (How It Looks)

  1. Jonathan Green on January 26, 2010 at 9:27 am

    For the unenlightened, what is cohousing? It sounds like something BYU students are forbidden from doing.

  2. Rob on January 26, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Sign me up!

  3. Dane Laverty on January 26, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Jonathan, cohousing is, perhaps, the world’s most unfortunately named community movement. The word “cohousing” certainly conjures images of free-love communes or something like that. In fact, cohousing has nothing to do with a bunch of people sharing a house. It’s the idea that several houses colocated around a common area serves to encourage community interaction while providing facilities that individuals can’t build for themselves.

    I explained it a little more clearly in my previous post: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2010/01/lifestyle/ . Or, for more information, check out the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cohousing .

    There are many approaches to building a community, but I think cohousing is great as a hybrid that combines the privacy that Americans are used to and the community relationships that the soul craves.

  4. Bob on January 26, 2010 at 10:38 am

    “Good fences make good neighbors”(Robert Frost}.
    Sorry, I have lived in places like these…no privacy, no community.

  5. queuno on January 26, 2010 at 10:44 am

    I have observed in suburbia that, sometimes, gated communities (which I generally despise on principle) tend to have a really close bond and sense of interaction. Maybe the symbolic act of gating themselves apart from the rest of the world fosters some form of community (cynical, but community none the less).

  6. Robert Ricks on January 26, 2010 at 11:00 am

    These have been illuminating posts, Dane. My sense is that we now talk about Zion as a metaphorical community bonded by Christian practice (love, service, etc.). The brick-and-mortar physicality of Zion in the 19th-century Mormon experience often seems little more than a historical curiosity.

    Do you envision a unique LDS take on the arrangement of space in 21st-century intentional communities? Would it be any different from what these places offer?

  7. Rosalynde on January 26, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Dane, I have enjoyed this series very much, and I am one who understands the appeal (and is attracted to the ideal) of an intentional community. When my husband and I were graduate students at UCSD, we lived in the university’s family housing apartment complex with many other student families from our ward, and we enjoyed the intimacy and community very much.

    In my current ward in St Louis we have a giant population of medical student families, most of whom live in one of two apartment complexes (one of them subsidized, one not) which consequently have a high density of young LDS families. From what I have observed, close community housing clusters work very well with a fairly homogenous group of neighbors, but they can get tricky when there’s significant cultural diversity in the neighborhood.

    Perhaps by definition an intentional community gathers up a fairly culturally homogenous group of neighbors. But I’m wondering how cultural diversity intersects with intentional living. Any thoughts on that? (Forgive me if you’ve addressed this in past posts and I missed it.)

  8. Bob on January 26, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I recall (from reading), BY was considered an inspired community builder when he put the wide streets in Utah. But then became “less popular”…when it came time for taxes to pave them.

  9. Will on January 26, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I don’t mean to toss a dead fly on your hamburger, but how many people really want to live in a cluster of homogenous neighbors, i.e. a neighborhood full of Mormons? Some of us actually enjoy living in a diverse neighborhood where there are few Mormons or where we are perhaps the only Mormons.

  10. Gina on January 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I had the pleasure of living in the UCSD student housing also (even overlapping with Rosalynde for a year or two!) and agree it struck a fantastic balance between community and privacy. Everyone had their own apartments, but all the outside spaces were shared – playgrounds, community gardens, laundry, open spaces. It helped that the weather was so lovely and inviting all year round. Many student families in our ward lived there, but I’d say there were 20-30 LDS families out of several hundred apartments. It was hardly predominantly LDS. And it was not homogenous, either – single and married, lots of international students (many with their parents living with them to tend their children while they went to school), etc. Our close neighbors included a Chinese couple who hosted Falun Gong meetings in their apartment, a single mom with two teeneaged sons, a black family from LA, etc. But there was the unifying commitment to higher education, which I think was significant. We were different in many ways, but there was a unifying element, a certain level of education that did smooth things over. I think a unifying element like that is essential for an intentional community to work.

  11. James Olsen on January 26, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Will – as Dane noted in his previous posts, he’s not trying to rally Mormons into building Mormon homogenous communities. Rather, he’s raising several very interesting questions concerning the relationship between our past, our present, and a burgeoning phenomenon in the U.S. I think he’s really hit on something: given our history of community building, it’s very conspicuous that the intentional community movement has largely flown right under our radar screen.

    I think Robert’s absolutely correct that our concrete notions of Zion building have all given way to metaphorical fluff (ok, fluff is my word, not Robert’s, but I’ll stick with that descritpion). I find this very lamentable. I’m going to go out on an apocalyptic/silly limb and say, I can completely envision (at least as a plausible thought experiment), our remaining as a civic society firmly committed to radical individualism to the point that we’re no longer able to see the value at all inherent in community. For instance, I can see family’s going the way of communities, and Mormons writing on T&S in a hundred stating, “Who wants to be around family that much? Thank goodness I was able to go off to an insular boarding school at 5″ and wielding all of their horrific, dysfunctional family stories to talk about why “family” might be quaint and old fashioned sounding in a romantic sort of way, how maybe it’ll work in a celestial heaven, but in reality on earth, it just doesn’t work.

    The difficulty is that Dane is trying to sell a good in a market where the good’s not even on display for most of us, and where a large portion of the market goers have largely lost their ability to even see it as a good. Wards have been our salvation so far. I can only hope that in an age where everyone is self-segregating at all levels, we’re able to maintain strong, geographically structured wards that are able to cut across financial boundaries.

  12. Dane Laverty on January 26, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Gina and Rosalynde, my time in BYU’s married student housing had a huge influence on my vision for an ideal community. It was similar to the experience that you describe — they are normal apartments, so you have your own space and privacy, but the quad served as a gathering place for people during the day and evening.

    Gina, I think you’re right to identify a commitment to higher education as a unifying factor. Shared interests create stronger friendships than shared affiliation. In other words, as a Mormon who enjoys playing board games, I’m more likely to connect with a non-Mormon game player (shared interest) than a Mormon non-game player (shared affiliation). Obviously, not everyone in any community will become bosom buddies, but a unifying lifestyle principles will increase the chance of meeting people you will connect with well.

    Bob and Will, my vision isn’t a cloistered community of Mormondom. In fact, my vision is not any single community at all. I don’t think there is any one way of living that will work well for everyone. Unfortunately, one single way of living is all that’s available to 99% of Americans. My hope is that a profusion of intentional communities will give people alternatives to the mainstream lifestyle that does not work well for many people.

    Robert Ricks, I imagine that there will be uniquely LDS community configurations, but that’s not my pursuit. What I’m hoping to uncover are the general principles that make some communities a joy to live in while other communities are anemic or dysfunctional. Then I hope that people (including myself and perhaps some of you who read this) will catch an individual vision of how those principles could be applied to build something wonderful…and then go out and build it!

  13. wondering on January 26, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    What Rosalynde said:

    “From what I have observed, close community housing clusters work very well with a fairly homogenous group of neighbors, but they can get tricky when there’s significant cultural diversity in the neighborhood.”

    This is why I’m very confident that “cohousing” will never be widely adopted. High prices for homes, lots of immigration, lots of talk about commitment to “diversity,” all these trends will work against cohousing. But feel free to dream.

  14. Sam B. on January 26, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    The sense of community we had in our various New York apartments was great–largely it was interactions in or waiting for the elevator or running into people on the street and petting their dog or letting them pet our dog or whatever. Other cities I’ve lived in don’t seem to have that same sense of community, and we miss it in Chicago.

    If that sense of community and interaction is what cohousing people are shooting for, I totally dig what they want. But is there a reason (seriously) that all the buildings look so ugly? As much as I prefer apartment living, with no fences and less-robust privacy, I couldn’t aesthetically take any of these cohousing communities.

  15. Sam B. on January 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    And Rosalynde,
    In my New York apartment buildings, there tended to be wide diversity (age, socioeconomic–it’s possible with buildings that have apartments that are rent-controlled and others that aren’t–race, sexuality, and marital status). And none of these differences impeded the sense of community. What seems to help most, actually, is having a dog or kids. Either way, you’re in the elevator a lot and have an icebreaker for conversation.

    The first building that we lived in where we knew everybody was the one where we had to take our dog out four or five times a day; taking him out that much, I ran into virtually everybody in the elevator at least a couple times a week. I imagine that in cohousing arrangements, to get the sense of community, it would be equally important to have some reason to be outside, among your neighbors.

  16. wondering on January 26, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    As much as I prefer apartment living…

    Well, good for you, Sam B. Perhaps the world would be a better place with more people like you.

    But you should acknowledge that your preference is not shared by the vast majority of people. Especially people with children. (Why do you think that is?) So generalizing from your preferences and experiences will not give us much insight into what will be possible in most of the country.

  17. Bob on January 26, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    #10: ” There was the unifying commitment to higher education”. Also the unifying knowledge you were all moving out!

  18. Bob on January 26, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    #12: What is that only single way 99% of Americans have?

  19. Ardis Parshall on January 26, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I think I like the idea of intentional communities, and as a practical matter I enjoy aspects of community life even in the generally anonymous city. Last night as I walked to the bus stop, for instance, I nodded to the greeting of the man who had just filled his soft drink jug at the tiny grocery store near the stop. I don’t know him or his name or anything about his life, except that he fills that darned jug every evening at about the same time, so he has become part of the background of my world, and I of his. Either one of us would probably notice, eventually, if the other disappeared. Same thing about the man who walks his golden retriever at the same time I’m walking to work in the morning — he always pulls his dog into someone’s driveway when he sees me coming so that the dog won’t goose me again. Don’t know him personally, but he cares about me to that little extent, and I appreciate his thoughtfulness to the same extent. We’re part of each other’s background.

    In real neighborhoods, or the kinds of communities Dane has been describing, there would probably be lots more of these background people, as well as neighbors I might actually get to know personally.

  20. Gina on January 26, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I think it’s very strange that there is some level of hostility in some of these comments towards the idea that people might voluntarily live in relatively close quarters and form relationships with eachother. Why is that objectionable?

    Also, there is much to be said to intentionally creating communities in our current neighborhoods. In my last neighborhood in Ohio, a man across the street organized a block party one July. It was absolutely wonderful and became an annual tradition. The grand old ladies on the street all gathered and talked about when they were all raising their eight kids together, the old gentleman sat and smoked their cigars, the kids rode their bikes around in the street, and people talked and drank and had fun together. It made a real, tangible difference in the neighborhood and wasn’t all that much work.

  21. Sam B. on January 26, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    wondering (16),
    Where did you get that I assume my preferences are shared by most people?

    And I can’t say, frankly, why people with kids prefer (if they prefer–you haven’t established that they do) to not live in apartments. Certainly I prefer apartment living with kids. I assume, of course, that those who don’t prefer it feel the way they do because they haven’t tried it.

  22. Sean on January 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Sam B.: I think the buildings look very pleasant, a kind of mix between old-fashioned and energetic.

  23. jay S on January 26, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I for a while, was an ardent supporter of the idea of co-housing. I still think it can be a good idea, but it certainly isn’t a panacea. The biggest difference between the co-housing and the cities many people adopt is that there is an interaction formed in the course of daily business.

    In Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities, she points out that having a defined empty space doesn’t benefit. Hoodlums, Vagrants, etc will come to take over parks, or defined areas. They just don’t get used. But mixed use communities with wide sidewalks will create safe zones and benefits. This is a reductionist argument being made here, but essentially, utopian planning like co=housing doesn’t always work, because it is essentially suburban in nature.

    You saw the benefits of this somewhat in student housing because people would come and go throughout the day as they go to class, tend the children etc. You would see this less so in a community of nine to five commuters.

    That said, I would love to live in a co-housing community. I would have my suburban home, but with a much bigger yard. Those things that I use only occasionally (large area for parties, yard for flying a kite) would be shared, and done even better.

  24. Dane Laverty on January 26, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you all for your comments, insights, and even your criticisms :) I’m afraid that I’ve managed to synonymize “intentional community” with “cohousing”. Cohousing is only one tiny slice of the grand vision that intentional communities include. Hopefully my next few posts will help clarify that.

    While I love the idea of cohousing, I agree that it’s got its own problems, and I certainly don’t believe it would be the ideal solution for everyone. Of course, that’s the message I hope to convey as I continue this series — there is no one ideal solution for everyone!

    Bob and wondering, the beauty of a diverse profusion of intentional communities is that they provide options. Anyone who wants to stay in a conventional suburban home is certainly welcome to — and that is a wonderful choice too!

  25. Seldom on January 26, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Bob said – “Good fences make good neighbors”(Robert Frost}.

    Robert Frost would probably take issue with your interpretation of that line. Here’s a few more lines from Mending Wall.

    Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
    Where there are cows?
    But here there are no cows.
    Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

    I’d love to see more intentional communities. Even small things like community gardens in a common space would greatly benefit a neighborhood.

  26. Bob on January 26, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    In 1960, the first condominium in the Continental United States was built in Salt Lake City, Utah.[citation needed] Initially designed as a housing cooperative (Co-op), the Utah Condominium Act of 1960 made it possible for “Graystone Manor” (2730 S 1200 East) to be built as a condominium. The legal counsel for the project, Keith B. Romney is also credited with authoring the Utah Condominium act of 1960. Romney also played an advisory role in the creation of condominium legislation with every other legislature in the U.S. Business Week hailed Romney as the “Father of Condominiums”.

  27. Dane Laverty on January 26, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Sam B., Ardis, and Seldom, you make a good point: the relationships in any community, intentional or otherwise, are not artificially manufactured. They are the result of spontaneous encounters at fences, or with dogs and kids, or watching an old man fill a jug every week. The lifestyle, space, and program of a community can only serve to facilitate those spontaneous encounters — it cannot manufacture them.

  28. Velska on January 26, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    I figured that there’s about 2 square meters of tolerable land for each of us. You can use http://metric4us.com to calculate square footage (hint: it’s less than 25 sq ft per person).

    The definition of tolerable is that it’s not any of the following:
    * Under water* Under Continental Ice Packs* Arid desert* Swamp/Marshland

    What can yo do with less than 25 sq.ft.? You’ll have to live in it as well as farm it. So no, we can’t all live in McMansions on large plots of land in semi-rural communities.

    I’m pretty sure that at some point we will have to take a realistic look at what is needful and what’s just “nice to have”.

  29. Melinda on January 26, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Those are beautiful photos. How are these communities different from a condo complex with shared amenities like a clubhouse, tennis court and pool? I bought a townhome in a condo complex with all those shared amenities, and neighbors walked their dogs on the street, and we all waved at each other and knew each other.

    And then I ended up on the Homeowners Association Board, which qualifies as one of the worst experiences of my life. There is nothing idyllic about trying to get 64 neighbors to agree on how much money they should pay to maintain a pool that only 4 people use. It got worse from there.

    I wouldn’t like a cohousing or intentional community arrangement if it means working together with my neighbors to maintain the common areas. Of the 65 people in our complex, about 58 of them were normal nice people, and the other 7 were on a mission to be horrible. They succeeded. I now live in the suburbs, and don’t have common property with anyone. I like it much better.

  30. Susan M on January 27, 2010 at 12:33 am

    My first thought: How is this any different than an apartment complex? Welcome to my world.

  31. Alison Moore Smith on January 27, 2010 at 3:46 am

    I love this idea. But maybe only the idea.

    After living in the somewhat-close-for-my-taste housing in Boca Raton (first townhouse, then zero-lot-line home, then .2 acre home (yes, in a gated community)), we jumped at the chance to buy 5 acres in an entire community of 5 acre homes. Turns out we couldn’t figure out what to do with that much land AND we really didn’t like being so isolated.

    Now we are building on .5 acre in a whole city of .5 acre homes and we love having the privacy with community that provides. It’s just right *for us.* I would love to have my sister and brother and a couple dozen of my dearest friends all live on the same few blocks.

    But my thoughts turn to governing and, having lived in two HOAs and having seen the division that caused, I imagine these intentional communities usually end up with more problems than benefits.

    As for preferring religious diversity, I’m hoping that everyone accepts the gospel! :)

  32. John Mansfield on January 27, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Velska, I think you slipped a decimal point somewhere. The United States has a bit more than 9 million square kilometers of land, or 9 trillion square meters. For 300 million people, that’s 30,000 square meters per person. If 6 billion of the earth’s people all lived in the United States and only 10% of the land were considered usable, that would still be 150 square meters per person. Consider Manhattan: about 60 square kilometers with a population of 1.6 million, or 37 square meters per person. Or Hong Kong: 1,000 square kilometers, a quarter of it developed and holding 7 million people, which is 35 square meters per person.

  33. Adam Greenwood on January 27, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Neat pics. Family housing at Notre Dame was set up like that (except without looking like a Thomas Kincaide painting) and it was a blast. On the other hand, we were all young marrieds, with kids, in grad school, so the sense of community we felt may have just been part of the benefits of undiversity.

  34. Zack on January 28, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Maybe it’s just the evil urban-dweller in me, but I can’t help but think that Zion ain’t gonna be a suburb.