I think it’s really important to highlight the specific day to day reasons why cohousing works for the residents of the Lancaster Cohousing scheme, and I think this blog post does that very well. Our visit to Lancaster was ‘eye-opening’ as it is one thing reading about a scheme in the library or on the computer, it is an entirely different reality when you actually experience a place first hand.
Similarly to Jane, there were elements of the scheme that stood out as highlights. For example, the ‘social node’ at the centre of the scheme which stood opposite the common house. The central alleyway had been intentionally designed to create as many opportunities for neighbour interaction, for example, everyone’s mail boxes were all next to the food stores. This simple design is quite transformational on the day to day life of the residents as exemplified when residents were coming to check their mail, or get certain food items from the store when we were being shown around.
Other ‘facilities’ that seemed to have a transformational impact on day to day life were the location of the houses themselves. The linear layout follows the natural contours of the river bank and maximises south facing solar radiation into the passivhaus homes. As a result of the layout, the houses have been designed so that everyone’s kitchens look out onto the central alleyway that connected the scheme together. Although the houses at both ends of the scheme see less neighbours by default, the general experience is that people ‘see’ one another on a daily basis. Living privately but also being ‘seen’ regularly has the potential to increase people’s awareness of other neighbours’ lives. Coupled with the interactions of neighbours at communal meals in the common house or impromptu conversations whilst collecting their mail, it occurs to me that residents can enjoy both private and more community orientated lives.