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Co-design exercises are common practice in the forming of a cohousing scheme. They give residents the ability to directly influence the way their scheme works – be it from the management of finances and maintenance of communal areas to the physical layout of their scheme.

Figure 1 – Hypothetical residents analysing their cohousing site using Kevin Lynch’s analysis techniques.¬†
(Source – Author’s own, 2017)

Site Planning Game

As part of the Housing Alternatives module, we were tasked with creating an exercise which allowed ‘residents’ the opportunity to design their own cohousing scheme. Our main aim was to discover how different demographics within a cohousing group would analyse a site based on their own needs. In order to do this, we selected a site in Newcastle (one which all of the students would be familiar with) and allowed the hypothetical residents to apply a Lynchian analysis to it (Fig 1 & 2). This gave a wider analysis of the location which the site fell in. Some of the key findings from this part of the exercise were that residents:

– felt it was necessary to be connected with external nodes and landmarks,
– believed that roads were deemed barriers to the site, and because of this there should be a clear separation,
– thought that areas with high volumes of traffic should be avoided.

Figure 2 – Completion of the Lynchian analysis by the residents
(Source – Author’s own, 2017)

The second part of the co-design exercise focused on the potential site for the scheme. We gave residents props which represented common things in cohousing schemes, such as garden space, kitchen, living room, parking, live/work housing, regular housing and bin storage. This was a useful task – one which would later prove to be extremely beneficial when designing our cohousing masterplan. Residents expressed opinions on how the site should be designed, and through discussions between them and the designers, several things were agreed upon. Those were as follows:

– a public footpath through the site could create privacy problems, and although it was necessary to include the footpath, it should be considered carefully when plotting other aspects of the scheme.
– car parking should be kept to a minimum, and any car parking provision should be located on the periphery, or ideally outside of the site.
– the communal garden space should be overlooked by as many houses as possible, and should be closely associated with the common house.
– live/work units should be located close to the public road adjacent to the site as this allows clients and other workers quick access to the units without having to enter the cohousing site.

Figure 3 – Residents working together to design the layout of their cohousing scheme
(Source – Author’s own, 2017)

These key points were taken into the design of our cohousing masterplan. We designed the live/work with a double frontage, with living space fronting the cohousing scheme, and the work space fronting a pedestrian street. We also included a public footpath which penetrated the cohousing scheme, but designed it in a way that controlled the amount of footfall by diverting the walkway slightly.  These two design features, inspired by the co-design exercise, helped us to achieve our goal of creating a cohousing scheme that not only had a sense of privacy, but connected and integrated with the surrounding community.

Figure 4 – The design of our cohousing scheme. Live/work units along the eastern edge, communal garden overlooked by all houses and the diversion of the public footpath
(Source – Author’s own, 2017)

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509


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