Creating Community in an Urban Housing Environment Open Access
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Nearly one-quarter of Americans live alone, a number expected to increase as the elderly population grows. The fastest growing family type is the single-parent household. This thesis project, the co unItY project, addresses the isolation of the growing elderly, single and single parent urban households through the exploration of the reallocation of private and public space in an urban residential environment that fosters community and interaction between neighbors. The project focuses on an urban environment in response to the earth's population shift to a more urban than rural homestead. This shift is expected to continue.The project examines designs and proposals advanced by various visionary architects in the 20th and 21st centuries exploring what the "house of the future" would or should look like. In conjunction with the historical analyses of visionary architects, various aspects of design implemented in the United States in cohousing communities are researched as an alternative housing model which has redefined the concept of household, neighborhood and community. The information obtained from these studies informs the proposed model of key design elements to implement in an urban housing environment to foster a sense of community through the built environment. This thesis creates a new co-housing prototype in a 3 story, 11-unit building in Washington, D.C. The design builds community by locating convenient and attractive public spaces throughout the project where various group activities can occur. Further, the proposed model also suggests that the dwelling units be designed to facilitate primarily private uses, such as bathing and sleeping, and to limit the amount of socializing that occurs in these spaces. The design simplifies the single dwelling unit and pulls out the socializing aspects of a home by reallocating these spaces into the larger public sphere of the complex. The units feature all of the amenities expected of a private unit plus the shared use of large public spaces which are unexpected for a single urban home. The public spaces are designed as a central circulation spine for the building, sparking activity and interaction between tenants. The project strikes a balance between private and public life while fostering a familial community with one's neighbors. In the isolating nature of an urban environment, this project responds to the human need for interaction.