There is an encouraging flurry of activity on Cohousing in London at the moment. March 14th will see a ‘get-together’ of the London cohousing groups for an informal exchange of their experiences so far, initiated by Cohousing Woodside’s Group Development taskgroup. See a forthcoming blog for a report of this event.
An ‘Introduction to Cohousing Ideas and People’ workshop will be held at Pollard, Thomas Edwards architects’ practice in Islington on the evening of March 25. This is for interested individuals in London who are new to cohousing. It will feature talks on: ‘Intentional Communities – what is Cohousing? (Jo Gooding, UKCN); ‘Building a Cohousing Group’ (Maria Brenton, UKCN); ‘Money and Sites’ (Toby Lloyd, Hackney Group); ‘Collaborative Design’ (Patrick Devlin, PTEa) and ‘What to expect from your builder’ (Steve Drury). Representatives of existing groups active in the capital will be available to talk to those who come. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
On March 26, cohousing will be included in ‘Public Wisdom’, a conference at Caxton Hall, around ageing, creativity and the public realm. This is funded by the Baring Foundation and will feature the eminent Professor Richard Sennett whose work as a sociologist has focussed on social ties in cities and the effects of urban living on individuals in the modern world. The programme also features Patrick Devlin, PTEa’s architect for the OWCH scheme in Barnet. He will speak about the participative process he developed with the Older Women’s Cohousing group, along with Rachel Douglas, an OWCH member, who will speak on the OWCH women’s experience of being involved in designing their own building.
One of the rewards for taking on the early, pioneering work to establish a cohousing community is that you get the opportunity to make an input to the design of your own home. We have reached the stage where individual households are, with the help of a PTEa architect, personalising their future environments within reasonable limits. Do I want this wall there? Can I have a shower rather than a bath tub? How is the cat going to get in and out through a thick Passivhaus wall?
Getting to grips with these practical issues gives a comforting sense of ‘getting there’ at last, even though move-in is some time away still. When we have these things settled, we will move on to common areas of interest like ‘how will we make the most of the common house?’ or ‘what do we all understand by neighbourliness and how do we envisage its day-to-day expression?’
Once the design practicalities are settled, the legal agreements signed, the real work of cohousing begins – building ourselves into a cohesive, friendly, supportive group that maintains a satisfactory balance between personal self-sufficiency and communal activities. Our group is steadily growing and individual members are gradually identifying areas of work where they may contribute their skills and experience. In the process, we are slowly getting to know each other better, which is the point of cohousing.
Our architects, Pollard Thomas Edwards’projected design for the St Luke’s site was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Housing Design Awards 2014.
Housing Design Awards is an non-profit organisation drawing on expertise across the housing industry to champion the value of good design. One of its most important activities, now in its 64th year, is a national assessment programme, sponsored by government and the Greater London Authority, of new developments in the British housing sector. This culminates annually with schemes shortlisted as the best from a broad range of entries. This shortlist of completed and projected schemes is visited by a multi-disciplinary team of 16 judges.
The winners were announced on July 15 this year at a ceremony and reception held at the amazing new Saw Swee Hock Centre at the London School of Economics. Two members of Cohousing Woodside were invited by Hanover to attend. The overall winner was ‘Abode’development in Great Kneighton, Cambridgeshire by Proctor and Matthews, but CW representatives were proud that PTEa were part of the shortlist.
The Cohousing Woodside development is set to go. At a recent meeting with Savills’ project manager and architects, we were informed that GLA has supported Haringey Council’s planning decision for the St Luke’s site. Hanover is preparing for Section 106 agreements and procurement during the current 6 week moratorium period.
We agreed a broad plan of action for the near future, amongst which is the potential for a design workshop at PTEa. This will also be our first opportunity to meet the Landscape architects.
According to Savills, if all goes well, they hope to appoint a contractor by the end of summer and start on site in September 2014.
Lots of details will be revealed at the next Cohousing Woodside meeting on Sunday February 16