My Experience of Blogging

The MAUD Urban Design Blog 14-15 has given me my first experience of using a blog, the idea and concept of blogging is an idea which appeals to me greatly. The introduction of the blog into the module encouraged me to consider and look at other blogs related to design. By reading other blogs I was able to develop an understanding of the language and approach people took to blogging.

When constructing my first blog post it was useful to refer back to other blogs which I had read. Writing blog posts was a different style of writing and presenting an argument, to what I am used too, I tried to use short sentences and an more informal style than essay writing to make sure posts were both informative and engaging. The requirement to include academic references in blog posts at first presented a challenge, other blogs that I had looked at often didn’t use direct academic references and presented a more personal argument. However as a requirement of the brief, I came to understand the importance of including academic references within posts. In order to ensure that my posts included accurate references, after deciding upon a topic for a blog post I would undertake research already completed upon the same topic or similar, this allowed me to reflect and be critical of my own personal understanding and opinion in relation to theory and fact. In turn strengthening the arguments and viewpoints portrayed within my blog posts.

Maintaining the regularity of blogging presented a personal challenge, as the workloads for other modules increased, I prioritised other work before blogging. Recognising that I was not completing blog posts as regularly as I had hoped, mid-week through the semester I began to note down inspirations and thoughts regarding possible blog posts from lectures, tutorials and feedbacks. By creating a resource which stored ideas I was able to produce blog posts at a quicker rate and I began to use the blog at a more personal level, reflecting upon my own personal experiences as part of completing the Diploma in Urban Design. By almost using the blog as a diary to record module progress and considering weekly learning in combination with the blog, I began to find the blog less of a burden and more of a way to record my progress and my design development future requirements.

Completing the blog alongside the whole of my cohort was extremely beneficial. By organising a range of self directed meetings as a class, problems with the blog could be discussed and overcome to ensure it continued to run smoothly. I do however believe that such meetings could be utilised more; group discussions should be used to develop ideas and ensure group consensus in regards to the elements and maintenance of the blog – for example responsibilities to arrange meetings and take minutes could be shared more equally.

As all members of the class undertook the same modules, often blog posts by different individuals were very similar. Discussions could be used to ensure that similar topics are explored from different angles, this would add variety and depth to the blog overall possibly increasing ‘outside’ interest.

Overall completing the required blog posts has enabled me to explore an innovate way of learning. In hindsight I would continue to use the approach of noting possible blog topics throughout other learning opportunities and use posts to reflect upon experiences If I was to do the blog again I would try to continue to develop a more ‘blog efficient’ writing style and consider different ways of presenting arguments. In conclusion I believe overall that, I have developed my learning through completing the blog; however completing the blog alongside other work pressures is often difficult; therefore more efficient time management is required.

Designing Taking Influence from Landscape Urbanism 

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By visiting and exploring Nantes we were able to understand the materiality, character and distinctness of the city. To begin with we looked at structuring infrastructures and considering the infrastructure which surrounds our site and the possible influence and effect the existing could have upon our proposals. Taking influence from landscape urbanism it was our challenge to produce three different scenarios for a large site on the Ile de Nante. We were required to produce three different scenarios.

Scenario 1: Concerned with the development of the materiality of ground plans and fields of activity, focussing on external spaces.

Figure 1: Scenario 1

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Scenario 2 :Establishes the initial settlement with few buildings , providing the basics for the city of learning. Designing a process for potential growth.

Figure 2: Scenario 2


Scenario 2








Scenario 3: Establishes maximum density carefully valuing key external spaces for contemplating, exchanging and learning.

By considering the key themes of landscape urbanism; processes over time, horizontal design, methods and imaginary the scenarios were designed through the organisation of the landscape. Using the scenarios to prepare the land, large scale infrastructure was organised into a series of future potential development plots. Considering how the environment may change over time, respect for natural processes allows the design of each scenario to anticipate change and remain flexible for numerous possibilities. As Corner (2006) argues by approaching design in this way enabled the processes of time and space to be better understood and designed for. Influenced by this observation each of the three scenarios considers the existing development and the processes which are already present on site in order to provide external spaces which help to enhance and develop the current unique character and identity which is already established on site.  Through considering both being and becoming (ibid) the landscape can be organised successfully to achieve advancement towards a varied range of possible futures.

References and Figures

Corner, J. (2006), Terra Fluxus, In Waldheim, C., Ed, The Landscape Urbanism Reader. Princeton Architectural Press.

Figure 1: Scenario 1 (Source: Author’s Own, 2015)

Figure 2: Scenario 2 (Source: Author’s Own, 2015)


Understanding Landscape Urbanism


James Corner (2006) suggests that there is a need for the development of new ways of thinking and approaching design differently, by no longer seeing the environment and the urban as two separate identities, design should be constructed upon the combination of the two. To achieve a combined understanding of both landscape and urbanism, Corner (2006), suggests that the function of the landscape first needs to be clearly understood. The multi-dimensional nature of the landscape allows for it to be capable of responding to temporal changes, transformation, adaptation and succession. This observation is further supported by Waldheim’s (2006) argument as he suggests by considering the landscape as a form of horizontal infrastructure it can be better understood. Such an acknowledgement of the connection between landscape and urbanism has led to the development of the theory Landscape Urbanism.

Defined as ‘a creative form of practice’, Corner (2006) suggests that there are four provisional themes of Landscape Urbanism; processes over time, the staging of surfaces, the operational/or working method and the imagery. By considering how the processes of urbanism shape urban relationships, spatial form is understood in the context of how it relates to processes that flow through, manifest and sustain it. The understanding of a place means the understanding of what happens there (Kahn, 2005) by giving the process of time consideration landscape should not solely be considered in terms of natural systems but understood in social, political and economic terms.

The example of Corner’s ‘Fresh Kills’ demonstrate how by considering the landscape in the above terms bring benefits for design and the success of implementation in regards to producing a scheme which is able to adapt to future possibilities. By considering the arrangement of different environmental layers, Fresh Kills proposes the creation of vast park lands on an old landfill site. Through the process of naturally cleansing the landscape, the proposal proposes a growth emergence from past and present conditions to create a unique future, in turn changing how people experience reclaimed landscapes.

Reference and Images

Corner, J. (2006), Terra Fluxus, In Waldheim, C., Ed, The Landscape Urbanism Reader. Princeton Architectural Press.

Kahn, A. (2005), Defining Urban Sites, In Burns, C., & Kahn, A. Eds, Site Matters: Design Concepts, Histories, and Strategies.

Psychology Press.

Waldheim, C., (2006), The Landscape Urbanism Reader, Architectural Press, Princeton.

Image Source: Corner, (2007), Fresh Kills, available at:, last accessed: 12/3/2015.

Engaging with Future Communities – Hexham Community Engagement Event


An important aspect of the majority of co-housing schemes is the way in which the development is designed, the future communities that are to inhabit them are (as mentioned in Developing a Design Brief posted on Wednesday 25th March).

As part of the ‘Alternative Housing’ module being undertook in Semester Two, my cohort received the opportunity to lead a community engagement design event. Both the cohort and myself combined our knowledge and research to develop an activity which would help us with the design of external spaces and the positioning of residential blocks and community facilities within our developing masterplan. Using elements of the ‘Plan Maker Method’ (Community Places, 2014)  we used a base plan with 3D blocks representing the different buildings for example homes and buildings of communal use. By creating a number of labels with key activities and uses we asked to community their needs and aspirations required of the future development.

Referring back Watson and Bentley argument stated in previous blog post the experience of engaging within conversation with the community allowed me to develop an understanding of what is of most importance and what is of least. By encouraging and directing discussion I was able to let the community convoy their own personal ideas in relation to the future design decisions in the creation of the scheme.

Figure 1: Engaging and Discussing Community Aspirations and Needs

Source: (Alina Pavolva, 2015)

The use of the model and plan-maker labels, ensured discussions were focussed and valuable information was collected. Wate’s (2004), concern relating to community engagement discussions being ‘off topic and a forum for all topics to be discussed’ were overcome by mediating and encouraging conversations. Adopting the role of mediator and encouraging discussions was challenging as it was of importance to the group that all members were involved and all ideas where heard.

To conclude I believe it is evident that allowing communities to engage within the design development is of beneficial to the designer as the experience can allow designers to develop their knowledge and understanding of what is to be produced. The creation of a resource as seen in Figure 2 provides the opportunity for designers to go away and analyse the community opinion and suggestions.

Figure 2: Creating a Resource: The Outcome of the Community Engagement Event


Source: AuthorsOwn

Which in turn evidences that not only does community engagement allow for designers to understand the context, community and requirements for a design but helps to ensure places reflect a specific character and inhabitants encourage and establish their own sense of place identity.

References and Figures

Community Places, (2014), Community Planning Toolkit, available at:, last accessed: 29/04/2015.

Wates, N., (2004), The Community Planning Handbook, 2nd Edition, EarthScan, Routledge, London.

Watson, G.B. & Bentley, I., (2007), Identity by Design, Architectural Press, London.

Figure 1: Engaging and Discussing Community Aspirations and Needs, Source: (Alina Pavlova, 2015).

Figure 2: Figure 2: Creating a Resource: The Outcome of the Community Engagement Event, Source: (Author’s Own, 2015).

Identity by Design – The Case of Co-Housing

Whilst developing the concept design for a new residential development on a vacant site, one of my first thoughts was the consideration of how to create different character areas and establish a settlement which portrays distinctive place identity. Sepe’s  (2013) argues that aesthetic elements arranged successfully to engage the senses are beneficial to the creation and enhancement of a place’s character and identity. By considering that character and identity are not static design features alone but are related to social identities (Stokols & Shuckers 1981), the concept and ideology of co-housing relates closely to discussions surrounding place identity. Co-housing developed as an intentional community is often based on a specific ideology, shared values or religious or spiritual beliefs  (Durrett & McCamant, 2011); which consequently contributes to the character of spaces.

Watson and Bentley (2007) suggest that designers are required to understand a place’s identity from the community themselves, defining both needs and aspirations. When designing the co-housing community it is of importance to consider at a practical level; how places are used and the symbolic level of their meanings. Through the arrangement of morphological elements as raw material designers should organise these in such a way to create relationships. For example this can be seen in the Lancaster Co-housing scheme, as shown in Figure 1; the pedestrianised street, meets the desires of the community as it creates a car free space for interaction as well as using design decisions to enhance the understanding and promotion of key spaces. As the material used changes in front of the common house and communal facilities the user becomes aware that they are entering a different zone of different use.

Figure 1: Enhancing Character Through Design Decisions and Material Choices

Source:(Author’s Own, 2015)









By influencing users perception, through engagement of the senses, ‘networks of symbolic significance can influence human behaviour’ (Sepe, 2013), returning back to the example of Lancaster the change of materials encourages people to congregate outside of the communal facilities instead of outside people’s individual homes. This observation suggests that when designing the future co-housing scheme landscapes, buildings and materials should be selected based upon the successful contribution to the scheme’s character and identity.

The opportunity of the forthcoming community engagement event can act as a stage to discuss and define the desired character and identity of the Hexham co-housing scheme and how this will be achieved. To later inform design decisions and create a viable scheme that is unique to the community which inhabits it.

References and Figures 

Durrett, C. & McCamant, K.,  (2011), Creating CoHousing, New Society Publishers, Canada.

Sepe, M., (2013), Mapping Place Identity, Routledge, London.

Stokols, D. & Shumaker, S., (1981), People in Places: A Transactional View of Settings, in Harvey, D., (Ed), Cognition, Social Behaviour and the Environment, p 441-488, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillside.

Watson, G.B. & Bentley, I., (2007), Identity by Design, Architectural Press, London.

Developing a Design Brief – Observations of a Participatory Design Process

Participatory Design Process

Semester Two sees the beginning of new projects and the exploration of new ideas, separated into pairs, this terms large scale design project is focussed upon the development of a CoHousing scheme in Hexham, a small town in Northumberland. Under instruction to construct a design brief for a residential development (including a co-housing scheme) within a 4.3 hectare site, we undertook extensive site analysis and research; and visited an established co-housing scheme in Lancaster (see previous blog post ‘A Visit to a Co-Housing Scheme’ for in-depth discussion of the case study).

The design brief of co-housing developments is often created by the future community that is intended to inhabit it. By considering the importance of participatory design processes; it is evident that in cohousing schemes such processes allow for the establishment of community relations before the actual development is constructed (Durrett & McCamant, 2011). Referring back to the example of the Lancaster CoHousing scheme, residents stated that design process allowed for the establishment of individuals adopting their own roles and understanding the responsibilities that they were required to undertake as being a part of the Forgebank community; which meant that once the scheme was complete social processes for example the rules of use regarding the common house were already established.

Responsibilities for the success of a participatory design process lie with both the community and the design team, as it observed by Durrett and McCamant (2011) the greatest difficulty of such processes; is receiving enough input from the residents to create the most effective design. However ensuring effective input is achieved is often a role undertook by the designer. Designers should work effectively with the group, demonstrating the understanding of the groups intensions and combining it with their expertise in order to define community goals and values and translate them into design criteria (ibid). Which in turn suggest that designs will benefit from the incorporation of public knowledge; as a forum for discussions to take place is established, meaning that advancement towards understanding and agreement can be achieved. Through the creation of a two way learning relationship, designers are responsible for balancing the desires and needs of the community with the characteristics of the selected site. Academic arguments support this as they suggest that it is the responsibility of designers, architects and planners to ‘learn and work with others’ (Forester, 1999, p23) to ensure collaborative processes are managed and conducted successfully to achieve desired outcomes (Levy, 2011). If conducted superficially, poorly designed efforts may be a waste of time and finial resource (Brownhill and Parker, 2012). Figure 1 below demonstrates the importance of links between different stages of the development of design, highlighting that each stage and therefore series of information is directly linked to others in order to understand and design most efficiently.

Figure 1: Understanding the Key Processes of Participatory Design

Participatory Design Process

Source: Government of South Australia, (2008).

I believe that there is an an important role and continuing role developing for designers within participatory design processes (RTPI, 2014), not only responsible for establishing the design process but producing the completed design, designers are required to establish a relationship with the community built upon trust (Botsman and Latham, 2001). By excepting and valuing public input into design decisions, designers are required to build consensus through facilitating discussions, identifying ways of problem solving and participating in negotiation and mediation. Therefore experience of involvement within participatory design processes allow for designers to reflect upon individual practice and to constantly continue the development and learning of new skills and techniques. From the above discussion I will consider the important role of the designer in such processes as in the future as part of the ‘Housing Alternatives’ modules we are required to undertake and lead a design workshop with an established cohousing group in Hexham.

References and Figures

Brownhill, S. & Parker, G., (2007), ‘Why Bother with Good Works? The Relevance of Public Participation in Planning in a Post-Collaborative Era, Planning Practice and Research, 22(1), pp.619-634.

Durrett, C. & McCamant, K.,  (2011), Creating CoHousing, New Society Publishers, Canada.

Forester, J., (1999), The Deliberative Practitioner: Encouraging Participatory Planning Processess, MIT Press, Massachusetts.

Levy, J.M., (2011), Contemporary Urban Planning, Pearson Education, Boston.

RTPI (2014), Community Engagement – Our Viewpoint, available at:, last accessed: 23/3/2015.

Source: Government of South Australia, (2008), The Community Engagement Handbook, available at:, last accessed: 1/1/2015.

Understanding Design Features – A Visit to Forgebank (Lancaster’s Co-Housing Scheme)


After being introduced to the idea of co-housing and beginning site analysis, as a cohort we undertook a site visit to an established co-housing scheme in Hoxton, Lancaster. Considering the outcomes of present site analysis and academic research I was particularly interested to consider how the design features encouraged social interaction within the scheme. Shown around by a resident of Forgebank’s community, I came to acknowledge the importance of design in creating a sense of community and enhancing the possibilities of achieving social interaction. From the design of the individual dwellings, the shared facilities to the key areas of movement and access. Each design decision has been made carefully to ensure the success of a scheme. The observations I made throughout the case study visit, supported the argument of Durrett and McCamant (2011); suggesting that design can encourage ‘strong community interaction’.

Design Features to Encourage Social Interaction 

The Placement of Common Facilities 

Shared facilities where placed at the centre of the development. This helped to ensure that the facilities where easily accessible by all residents. At Lancaster the cohousing was placed around a narrow pedestrianised street. The common house, washing facilities, storage area and guest bedrooms was in the middle of this street, by using a change in pavement surface it is clear where the shared facilities are. Covered by a clear plastic roof the pedestrianised street surrounding the facilities is protected from the weather and can be used by the community in all weather conditions. The clever choice of materials suitably highlights the common facilities as an extension of people’s private dwellings and external spaces. Locating the facilities here ensure that most residents will have to pass it regularity as it sits on the most direct route through the site. Which as ScottHanson states ‘facilitates opportunities for spontaneous and frequent interaction’ (2005, p99).

Figure 1: Image to show the pedestrianised street and common facilities in the Lancaster CoHousing scheme, considering the change of materials to highlight communal spaces. (Image – Author’s Own).480549_10152932146752639_6603641292207541989_n


By providing parking spaces at the periphery of the site, the Forgebank site is predominantly pedestrianised, this provides external spaces for the community to interact and creates a safer environment for children to play. Durrett and McCamant (2011, p257) suggest that parking areas should be clearly separated from the living environment, to act as a buffer shielding the residents homes from roads. In Lancaster this is achieved by having small plots for parking located at different edges of the site.

Figure 2: Diagram Highlighting Parking Areas in Grey. (Digram – Author’s Own).

PIC Lancaster Site Layout

 The Internal Design of Dwellings 

Each dwelling that faced the pedestrianised street, was designed so that the kitchen was facing the public access route, this creates the opportunity for neighbours to see each other; for example when stood doing the washing up residents can see the street and people using the street can see their neighbours. This ensured that the living room was positioned furthest away from the pedestrianised street, so that people could relax in there own private spaces without being seen or disturbed by the other residents (Durrett & McCamant, p65).

Figure 3: Diagram to show the internal layout of Lancaster CoHousing Dwellings. (Diagram – Author’s Own).

PIC Lancaster House Layout Photoshop

Therefore to summarise it is important to consider the impact of design decisions when designing a cohousing scheme. Decisions and layouts should be created to use the strengths of the site to the maximum to ensure the opportunities are created for both social interaction whilst creating private spaces which residents have easy access to as and when they wish. The consideration of such design features will be of high importance when producing the forthcoming masterplan required to be produced as part of the ‘Housing Alternatives’ module.

References and Figures 

Durrett, C. & McCamant, K.,  (2011), Creating CoHousing, New Society Publishers, Canada.

ScottHanson, C. & ScottHanson, K., (2005), The CoHousing Handbook, New Society Publishers, Canada.

Figure 1: Image to show the pedestrianised street and common facilities in the Lancaster CoHousing scheme, considering the change of materials to highlight communal spaces. (Image – Author’s Own).

Figure 2: Diagram Highlighting Parking Areas in Grey. (Diagram – Author’s Own)

Figure 3: Diagram to show the internal layout of Lancaster Choosing Dwellings. (Diagram – Author’s Own).


‘Co-Housing and Community’ – A Written Summary

Taken from: Creating Co-Housing, McCamant & Durrant (2011)

Lorna Heslop’s Summary – Group 2

As part of the ‘Housing Alternatives’ module, each group was allocated a reading and required to produce a short summary. The follow text summaries the key points and areas of discussions within the chapter ‘Co-housing and Community’ taken from McCamant & Durrant (2011) book ‘Creating Co-Housing’.

Cohousing and Community – The Secret Ingredients to Sustainability 

McCamant and Durant argue that co-housing community succeed at being sustainable because they achieve sustainability in may different ways, in terms of environmental, social and economic factors. Suggesting that:

Sustainability = Environment + Social Measures

Offering the potential of social benefits co-housing brings people closer together and reduces consumption, residents are at the forefront of the green revolution. The design of the community within co-housing is of great importance as establishing a group which interact often allows for individuals to work in a collaborative nature – for example car share schemes can be established and environmental measures put into place for example rainwater capture. The collaborative working which is undertook in within co-housing schemes allows for people to discuss and agree on things, for example

CoHousing ‘A Model for Efficient Sustainable Development’

By addressing the issues of community building, proximity to services, energy conservation, environmental stewardship and neighbourhood design elements, choosing creates a model for sustainable development.

As co-housing schemes are often located closely to public transport, with easier access to services, built on infill sites with a higher density in regards to their suburban counter parts. Co-housing often integrates work and housing which offers an alternative to commuting creating a social environment for people who may work alone. Similar to traditional villages co-housing communities consist of mixed-use, mixed-income and integrated communities which differ greatly from ‘typical suburban’ communities, creating opportunities to exceed many principles of contemporary neighbourhood design.

Sustainable Design Elements

Conducted research shows that dependent upon design co-housing residents use 50-75% less energy for heating and cooling than they used in there previous homes. Dwellings are often smaller than average and residents drive less.

Co-housing is more sustainable in terms of design than traditional housing as consequent of the typical features of co-housing building design:

  • Infill development – sites with access to public transport and services
  • Use of sustainable materials
  • Advanced framing techniques (25% less wood than typical framing techniques)
  • Tight building envelopes
  • Passing heating and cooling
  • Floor heating systems
  • Renewable energy systems
  • Low water and energy use appliances
  • Fly ash used in concrete
  • Pervious paving to increase water absorption
  • Waste management
  • Permaculture landscape principles
  • High-grade erosion control
  • Low energy use fixtures
  • Cool roofs

By adopting such a combined approach to design long term-viability of co-housing schemes is achieved.

The Trend Towards Smaller Houses and More Common Facilities 

Co-housing in America and Europe is often smaller than the average home, suggesting that ‘small is better’ (less to clean, maintain, heat etc) and can meet all households needs. Co-housing has evolved to include clustered, high density development, in turn creating a better quality of life through the creation of living environments which are more resourceful and less consumptive.

The Advantages of Group Education and Motivation

People are seen as a crucial element of the co-housing design processes, the adoption of a collaborative design process ensures future residents are involved in the creation of their future home and community. This creates a forum for sharing knowledge and the establishment of an on-going educational process. Co-housing schemes go beyond initial design discussions and continue communication throughout the lifespan of the development. For example of initial design as people often get together regular to discuss on-going sustainability features, through collaboration individuals teach each other and advance towards a ‘greener’ way of living. The participatory process of planning co-housing establishes social ties and creates a cooperative environment.

Social Advantages

By creating spaces and places for individuals to meet and cooperate is a necessary ingredient for creating liveable communities. Facilitating the creation of healthy living environments for example can result in elderly people integrating and participating with on site activities, children can have companions and parents can discuss and arrange childcare etc. By adding to the social fabric of the neighbourhood the design of co-housing can allow or safer, more liveable and enjoyable neighbourhoods by providing a sense of security in homes and immediate living environments.

By summarising this text, it can be concluded that co-housing communities are well integrated with each other and through the design features of such neighbourhoods, social interaction is encouraged alongside collaborative working techniques and discussions to advance towards more sustainable ways of living.


McCamant, k. & Durrett, C. (2011), Creating Cohousing: Buidling Sustaianble Communities, ‘CoHousing and Community’, pp273 – 281, New Society Publishers.

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