Architecture: Concepts that play a role in cohousing design

Reposted from News from The Cohousing Company: McCamant & Durrett Architects. To continue this conversation, please join us in Nashville for the National Cohousing Conference, where Charles Durrett will be presenting several sessions, including: If it Doesn't Work Socially, Why Bother?

Architecture plays a key role in the long-term success of cohousing, once the honeymoon phase is over. The activity around the common house is a key indicator of this. Some common houses, for example, have 100 people-hours (number of collective hours that people spend in a certain place) per week, some have 450. In each case, it cost the group $400K to build it. For a group that hardly spends time in their common house, that is a lot of humanity left on the table and a lot of lost value. As an architect who has designed over 50 communities, I feel it's important to understand why either scenario happens and how to set a community up for success beyond move-in.

Hygge (pronounced hue-gah), is a Danish word that Katie and I became very familiar with when we studied architecture in Denmark in the early 1980s. It's a concept that describes when an experience is just right, the acoustics are just right, the combination of lighting (the ambient glow, the sparkle of brilliance, maybe a candle, and the specific task lighting) is just right. The warmth of the place, the quality and the geniality of the conversation - even the quality of the sustenance - constitute hygge. The hustle and bustle feels far away. The feeling is calm and warm.

That's hygge, a nearly untranslatable word. It's the entire concept of place, people, and air that are consumed by the appreciation for the here and now. Hygge is often instituted in Danish cohousing design, especially for the common house. The result is a gravitation towards that place. Hygge is about getting the feel just right, making a place that draws you in and makes you want to stay.

In the future, I'll be discussing hygge, specifically how it relates to the sustainability of cohousing communities across the U.S., but also how this life concept can be better embraced. Join me in the conversation. When have you experienced hygge? Are there specific elements of that experience that you remember?

Thanks,

Charles Durrett
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