Together by Design: The Art and Architecture of Communal Living

For many readers, "communal living" will call to mind the hippie houses of the 1960s and '70s, in which meetings were mandatory and clothing was optional. William Richards handily vanquishes such outdated thinking in Together by Design: The Art and Architecture of Communal Living, which is part architecture book, part sociology text and 100% homage.

Going with the idea that "architecture has always provided a vessel for individuals and communities to live their beliefs," Richards proceeds to make a persuasive case that communal living and cohousing can offer solutions to a raft of social ills, among them housing scarcity, loneliness and wasted resources. Together by Design, informed by Richards's interviews with cohousing architects and residents, spotlights a clutch of innovative projects, including London's New Ground Cohousing, whose senior-friendly design decisions were influenced by its residents; a facility in coastal Maine created for a three-couple group of friends, who live in separate but connected homes with common amenities; and Sweden's Suderbyn, which carries the expectation that all residents share one philosophy.

Richards (Revolt and Reform in Architecture's Academy; Bamboo Contemporary) admits that Suderbyn, which is "on the extreme end of the spectrum of ecological living and prescriptive communal and individual behaviors," is "not for everyone, even if everyone might benefit from spending a few days there." Readers can gauge the salubriousness of a stay at any of the featured residences with the help of the book's abundant photos, drawings and plans, among them a memorable shot of Suderbyn's compost toilet. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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