The Craneshaugh Cohousing Design

In the process of designing cohousing this site of Hexham, I had a lot of experience to share.

Hexham is a beautiful city which basically has both historical buildings and constructions with British modern architectures. People who living there are friendly and their income is shortly over the average level. Senior age level group of residents are about 20 percent, and this is a large occupation of population. This craneshaugh site, has a tricky typography with 13 meters height difference from north to south side, and it is not a flat ground from east to west. The Cockwood land actually became a shadow of sunlight on the south side of the site, and public transportation there are not very convenient.


source: Hexham (UK) Nothumberland postcode +NE46/@54.968475,-2.0725046,395m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x487d90620d319815:0xa83a2b78210dc004


Before we started, I have no idea of what is cohousing. In my cultural background, we have affordable housing for rent to those people who have needs, and they need to que for sign to live in those houses, besides, the form of these kind of housing are apartments. So after the visit of Lancaster cohousing site, me and my colleague finally get some point of the definition of cohousing, and agree deeply of this form of housing will largely enhance the opportunity of social interaction.




After the baseline analysis presentation, my partner got much more information about Hexham, such as social economic and historical background, and about cohousing, too. So based on those information we had, we decide to utilize this typography to have its unique identity, and also for mixed type of housing.






So we beginning to think out the appropriate road system, right housing types, and the most important, the unique typography that can contain these together.

After some tutorials, we finally made some progress that we will use blocks with natural way of roads to form a different neighborhood. Of course, we also designed large and small open and green spaces that may connect the different communities together as a whole, and share those facilities for making more social interaction of the whole site. We like to make residents love to live this kind of neighborhood, and getting more support from each other.




I have learnt a lot of things from my partner, and also from this program. Team work and hard working fulfilled this semester.

Trip To Lancaster Cohousing


On the trip to Lancaster, all I know about cohousing is like a kind of affordable housing that contributed by some social organizations. But when we got and had a chat with people who living in there, I had a feeling that all of those residents are like a big family, they choose to live there not just because of lower rent, they also share different facilities and resources, and have much more social communication with each other than the modern neighborhoods that we are living now. After the quick browse of different function of rooms, for example, kids’ room, laundry room, we made ourselves a great meal in the big common house. A lot of residents came to share the food, and they are so familiar with each other.


The most interesting thing is that I found out they have a food store that you can buy some seasoner, and residents share the duty by writing on a board. This is one of the ways to getting more foundation to develop the community.


Also, in another building, we were showed some large space workshop, offices, art and music studios, etc. This building is funded by the company named Green Elephant. A lot of people can actually work and enjoy themselves by using the amazing facilities and rooms, and they pay some rent, which can be another way that contribute to development. The atmosphere is quiet and full of creation.



For the space that I looked, they share some parking spaces before the river, and the front yards are giving by very narrow space for putting stuff, but their back yard is beautiful and open, they can put the children toys on the ground, and the fences you can hardly see. When we looked at the inside of one of the houses, the space of living room and bedroom are quite enough and comfortable. They also have terraces for first floor and outdoor platform on ground floor to enjoy the air and nature which have contained the privacy and public needs in every houses.


I have learnt a lot of cohousing by this trip, and I will use these experience into our cohousing project.

Images took by Yun Zhang, 2015

Participation in the Blog (Semester 2)


Figure 1

Why should you Blog?

(Susan Geunelius, 2015)

Time flies fast and not all the memories stay in our heads. The university time is approaching to it’s end. This blog was a sort of a diary, a notebook. One day I will return to it again. I will definitely come back here to refresh my university memories and look at a work we have done during urban design master degree. New students will come next year. They will take our places. They will write about their student life, tasks and projects. It will be very interesting to look at the portraits and their short biography. I will be able to learn about the differences between their courses and mine. After frequent blogging experience I feel like I became a better thinker and a better writer. I have been always enjoying  the process of blogging! Each time I took pictures either myself or I created them in Photoshop. I always thought about the ways which would help me to catch attention of my audience. All the posts on this website will definitely help urban designer students from other universities and future students.


Figure 2 

Student Life

(Alina Pavlova, 2015)

There is no doubt that I faced several issues during my posting. I have been waiting for comments on my blog posts from the outside university audience, but only some of my classmates put comments on it. As a matter of fact, it is a big pleasure to read others posts but at the same time it is a big challenge to leave a comment on someones blog post. I always respect other people’s work and I feel that they spend lots of time to writing it before posting. One of enjoyable parts of the process of writing blog is making pictures.. Wherever I went, I tried to take a camera with me because I knew that it might be necessary for my blog. It is a nice process of preparation and editing of pictures before posting. I would like to use the knowledge which I obtained from Urban Design MA Blog posts in order to create my own page where I can describe my current part-time urban design internship with Sunderland City Council. This job is my first job. The first experience is always very valuable and I would like to share my own feelings with other students. I would like to reduce their fear and lack of confidence, which is usually present before the beginning of a new job through the stories about my working days.


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).

Hexham Community Engagement Event

 IMG_2786 (1)Figure 1

Hexham Community Centre

(Alina Pavlova, 2015)

On Saturday 18th my classmates and I took a 30 minutes train from Newcastle to Hexham. The trip aim was to visit Hexham Community Centre. The task for this week was to discuss some issues about design of a future cohousing with invited guests.

The community helped us to find necessary information and provided us with a good introduction to the topic. This event has helped me to obtain understanding about the personal people’s feelings of development of the place. It was very useful that we could talk and study about the existing cohousing and it allowed us to move forward our Hexham design. Hexham cohousing intended to accommodate members of the elderly generation unwilling to settle in a calm environment of standard or retirement houses. For this reasons lively, artistic colourful interior were proposed by community and my group to correspond to a never ageing nature of the residents. A multitude of common rooms and large corridors were included in the plan to allow the pensioners to communicate and spend time with friends (Brenton, 2013). This event provided me with a good overview based on the stories of existing residents of the commune house, which could not be found in books.

Our group were concentrated on a development of Community House. The common house is designed to incorporate a canteen, laundry and other shared facilities and shops which will also be available for visitors. My group prepared 5 questions for the community. Such as:

  1. Who is going to use a common house?
  2. What kind of activities held in a common house?
  3. Where is the best location for co-housing?
  4. Is it necessary to produce some space for guests?
  5. When is the peak time of using a common house?


The community answers us and gave us very valuable responses which we will definitely use in our development of the project.

uuuuFigure 2

 Community Engagement

(Alina Pavlova, 2015)

After a while, we had a tea break and then we started all over again. We swapped groups with our classmates and asked questions from other people about their dreamed imaginary cohousing. The experience of such event is very useful because you have real people with their unique desires. My group mates and I transferred some of the selected ideas into a diagram (see Figure 4).

Communal House

Figure 3

Diagramm of  Common House

(Alina Pavlova, 2015)



1Brenton, M., 2013. Senior cohousing communities – an alternative approach for the UK? Available at: [Accessed 21 April 2015]

2Bradley, C., 2012. Community Planning Toolkit. Available at: [Accessed 21 April 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).


Visit to Lancaster Cohousing


Figure 1. Shoe-Free Home, Lancaster Cohousing (Alina Pavlova, 2015)

For some people there is nothing so exciting as traveling, and I’m not an exception. This week I  have visited a place called Lancaster Cohousing. It is located in a village called Halton. The place is not far away from Lancaster. Lancaster Cohousing situated on Forgebank and has an amazing rural location next to the peaceful river Lune. It has a south facing slope which facing the river (Alison, 2015). There are many green spaces and it has zero-carbon emission and it is build according to the AECB Gold Standard.

The excursion around the cohousing was led by our teacher Roger and Kathy (the lady from the Cohousing). This trip provided me the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. I have discussed with the cohousing members about their experience of living in the commune building. They said that it is impossible to be bored in the cohousing. It is easier to live with other people both in terms of cooking and cleaning. If the duties are distributed properly, a schedule is drawn up and closely followed, occupancies may have a great amount of spare time. Life in the Lancaster cohousing provides an experience that is very useful in helping to get along well with other people.

Surely some of the aspects of commune living were also familiar to me from my personal experience of being in summer camps and university accommodations. These places collect people from all over the world and allow them to live together at least for a short time in one sharing community regardless of their gender, family ties, nationality or race.



Figure 2. Cliodhna’s House, Lancaster Coghousing. (Alina Pavlova, 2015)

In addition to creation of a new type of social living, Lancaster is also distinguishable by its special design features. Lancaster had a big variety of common areas. This is intense to encourage the residents to share their activities and live side by side in one united society. If the duties are distributed properly, a schedule is drawn up and closely followed, occupancies may have a great amount of spare time (Young, 2015). This Cohousing incorporates canteens, laundries, workshops, children’s play rooms which helped eliminate the need to cook, wash clothes etc. (see Figure 3-5). The time which was saved as a result of this could be used for work and other practical activities. You are sure not to be bored in the cohousing. Life in cohousing provides an experience that is very useful in helping to get along well with other people.


Figure 3. Common Laundry Room. (Alina Pavlova, 2015)

Food storageFigure 4. Food Storage. (Alina Pavlova, 2015)

Play room

Figure 5. Children’s Play Room. (Alina Pavlova, 2015)

Let’s have a look at Figure 6. This place called cohousing living room. In order to enrich our experience of Cohousing, our tutor asked us to bring food and to cook it (see Figure 6). The cooking activity with my classmates helped me feel more connected with them. It brought so much joy to each of us. We spent time together and spent less money on food. Each of us brought some ingredients for cooking. We cooked lots of different meals and shared it with each other. The place looked like a buffet. You could choose what you would like to eat from a big variety of cooked meals.


cooking timeFigure 6. Cooking Time. (Alina Pavlova, 2015)



1Alison, 2015. Lancaster Cohousing. Available at: [Accessed 10 March 2015]

2Pavlova, A., 2014. Utopian Ideas in Commune Buildings, Dissertation

3Young, J., Stir the Pot, No a relationship: how Cooking Together is a Healthy Date. Available at: [Accessed 11 March 2015]



The Summary Of Designing Neighbourhoods For Social Interaction: The Case Of Cohousing


The relationship between design of every residential unit and residents’ behavior is the things which have to be considered in every neighbourhood. In many investigations, it is showed that the formal and informal interaction between design, personal and social factors can give an impact to residents’ behavior. Therefore, cohousing is one of the good example to solve these questions. This type of housing will encourage the community inside the neighbourhood to do some social interaction. It is better than living further apart. However, building the relationship through physical objects are deal with the functional things such as sharing pathways, communal spaces and less private space. Those things can encourage people to engage in social interaction. Actually, there are many other factors affect the social interaction such as personal factors, social factors, the time period and the community.


Source :

Cohousing is one type of housing which contain of some private dwellings and many community facility. The forms of the cohousing are private units, semi-private space, indoor and outdoor communal space. The aim of building cohousing is encouraging a ‘collaborative’ lifestyle and independence between residents. Cohousing is more popular than any other housing, There is no social hierarchy and shared economic systems. Moreover, according to objectives and design strategies, cohousing indicates the characteristics of new urbanism. Cohousing has the same social objectives like building community, encouraging interaction and creating convivial spaces. This type of housing also set the environmental objectives for its neighbourhood such as lower resource consumption and the reduction in the ownership and use of private vehicles. On the other hand, the strategies of design are similar with the common housing.


Source :

There are some design principles for cohousing. First, we need to set up the principle of indoor and outdoor communal facilities; Second, we need to design a good visible road into all communal spaces; Third, we do not allow car to get in community; Forth, we need to focus on gradual transitions between public and private space; Fifth, we need to consider rules of semi-private outdoor spaces close to private units for socializing (buffer zones); Sixth, we need to build access points on shared walkways; Seventh, the size of tendency for private dwellings are smaller than usual unit size (with limited kitchen and laundry facilities provided);Last, cohousing will encourage every resident to use communal spaces more than the private unit. For instance, cohousing will build communal kitchen/dining areas, laundry, gym, workshop/hobby room, guest bedrooms, entertainment room, garden and storage space.

In conclusion, the key design factors of cohousing are density; layout; public and private spaces; the quality, type and functionality of communal spaces. However. It will be hard to rank the effect of those factor in terms of social interaction because of the complexity of inter-relationship between social, personal, design variables and opportunities.

References :

Williams, JO, 2005. Designing Neighbourhoods for Social Intercation: The Case of Cohousing, Routledge Publishers

The Cohousing Association Of The United States (n.d) [online] Available at:  [Accessed 10 February 2015]

LiveWell Cohousing (n.d) [online] Available at:  [Accessed 10 February 2015]

Towards Sustainable Communities (a short summary of “Creating Cohousing” book)

Inhabitants of Vrijburcht Cohousing

Figure 1

Inhabitants of ‘Alte Schule Karlshors’ Cohousing

(Willem van Gils, 2013)

According to the common definition, the word ‘cohousing’ means a group of people united by living collectively on the basis of common property (Doyle Street Cohousing, 2014). A form of life in a society where individuals share property, work and routine has been present since very early history of civilization. This is different to the current stereotype where families consisting of two or three generations live in a separate flat or in an individual house. In terms of early examples of societies living together without family ties, places such as monasteries, universities, colleges, alms-houses, boarding houses and army barracks can be named. These places were characterised by elements of commune living long before the concept of communes appeared in the beginning of 19th century (Jernstoberiet, 2013). The residents of these places were usually united by a common ideology or an aim, such as studies or religion. Their schedule usually matched because they were enrolled in the same activities meaning they would share their work too (Gils, 2013). This gave them the advantage of being able to request help from their neighbours when needed. The principle of mutual help and care about the co-residents evolved because people living together in such sharing close society feel themselves part of it and related to each other. (see Figure 1).


Figure 2

Swan’s Market in Northern California

(Will Crothers, 2012)

Cohousing provides accommodation for a self-organised community of families sharing common facilities, which can include kitchens, dining rooms, laundries, kindergartens, work facilities and other (McCamant, 2011). Despite these shared facilities, architecturally, cohousing can consist of a number of private homes or flats. This is intended to provide a private space which is sometimes needed for everyone. As the community is managed by the residents, this provides a basis for their interaction and cooperation.


Table 1

Common Characteristics of Cohousing

Thus, the more united and organized the residents are, the easier it is for them to fulfil their daily activities together. In fact, helping each other in such tasks as cooking, cleaning and even raising children can save a lot of time (see Figure 2 and 3).


Figure 3

Cooking Together in ‘Doyle Street‘ Cohousing

(Peggy Heim, 2014)

The main factor in reduction of the price as well as encouragement of communication and cooperation between cohousing occupants is the use of shared facilities and provision of common areas (Southside Cohousing, 2010). Transfer of some of the selected activities, such as cooking and laundry, outside the private space of residents’ apartments can also help simplify daily routine of the residents. Overall, despite many differences from the modern stereotype, advantages of cohousing will always pose an interest for the society creating potential for successful future projects.


1Doyle Street Cohousing., 2014. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 5 February 2015]

2Jernstoberiet., 2013. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 February 2015]

3Gils, W., 2013. Inhabitants of a Vrijburcht Cohousing. Available at: [Accessed 4 February 2015]

4McCamant, K., Durrett, C., 2011. Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities, Canada, New Society Publishers

5Southside Cohousing., 2010. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 February 2015]

“Alte Schule Karlshors” Cohousing


Figure 1

Different Generations Garden Together in ‘Alte Schule Karlshors’ Cohousing

(Sofie von der Pahlen, 2013)

Cohousing first gained its popularity in Denmark in 1960s, but over time similar projects have been developed in many other countries. Nowadays, cohousing communities can be found in relatively large numbers in many European cities, such as Berlin, Milan, Amsterdam and Stockholm (Abrams, McCulloch,1976).

Alte Schule Karlshorst

Figure 2

Living Side by Side in ‘Alte Schule Karlshors’ Cohousing

(Sofie von der Pahlen, 2013)

 There are many cohousing communities in Germany. One of them worthy of mentioning is called ‘Alte Schule Karlshorst’. This self-organised cohousing is situated in Berlin. Similar to many other similar communities, ‘Alte Schule Karlshorst’ appeared as a result of people looking for a cheaper and easier living. (see Figure 1&2). This search is especially stimulated in modern cities by constantly rising cost of accommodation and increasing proportion of ageing population requiring more support. In general, the problem of uninhabited buildings is very common in Germany (Scotthanson, 2004). In order to save buildings from complete desolation, vandalism and gradual disintegration, the government prefers to find them other uses, sometimes temporary, sometimes more permanent. In particular, the changes in demographical situation led to many schools and kindergartens being underused, whereas the existing retirement houses are not capable to accommodate all of the pensioners having physical or financial difficulties living on their own (Cohousing Cultures, 2012).

Inhabitants of Vrijburcht Cohousing

Figure 3

Different Generations Living and Working Side by Side in ‘Alte Schule Karlshors’

(Sofie von der Pahlen, 2013)

Consequently some of the schools and kindergartens were closed and transformed into cohousing estates (Gils, 2013). The building of the Alte Schule Karlshorst community has a long history dating to 1907 when it was built and became a school for Russian officers’ children during Berlin’s post-war occupation (Gils, 2013). Transformation of this historical building into a cohousing has helped to both protect the building and ensure its future use and, of course, provide living space for a multigenerational society (Pavlova, 2014). (see Figure 3). The neighbourhood includes families and single occupants (a total of 60 people, see Table 1).


Table 1

Information about ‘Alte Schule Karlshors’ Cohousing


1Abrams, P., McCulloch, A., 1976. Communes, Sociology and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p.4

2 C. Scotthanson, K. Scotthanson,2004. The Cohousing Handbook: Building a Place for Community, New Society publishers, p.14

3Cohousing Cultures.,2012. Handbook for Self-Organized, Community Oriented and Sustainable Housing, ICS, pp.54-55 Cvetkova, L., 2013. The Village. [images] Available at: [Accessed 02 February 2015]

4Gils, W., 2013. Inhabitants of a Alte Schule Karlshors Cohousing. Available at: [Accessed 04 February 2015]

5Pavlova, A., 2014. Utopian Ideas in Commune Buildings, Dissertation