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Spatial Agency: Creating New Opportunities for Sharing and Collaboration in Older People’s Cohousing

Hammond, M (2018) Spatial Agency: Creating New Opportunities for Sharing and Collaboration in Older People’s Cohousing. Urban Science, 2 (3). pp. 1-13. ISSN 2413-8851

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Abstract

Older people’s cohousing enables individuals to share spaces, resources, activities, and knowledge to expand their capability to act in society. Despite the diverse social, economic, and ethical aims that inform the creation of every cohousing community, there is often a disconnect between the social discourse developed by cohousing groups and the architectural spaces they create. This is a consequence of the building development process in cohousing, in which groups of older people are tasked with making decisions with considerable spatial implications prior to any collaboration with an architect. The concept of “spatial agency” offers an alternative model for the creation of cohousing, in which the expansion of architectural practice beyond aesthetic and technical building design enables social and spatial considerations to be explored contemporaneously. This study uses a two-year design-research collaboration with a cohousing group in Manchester, UK, to test the opportunities and constraints posed by a “spatial agency” approach to cohousing. The collaboration demonstrated how spatial agency enables both the architect and cohouser to act more creatively through a mutual sharing of knowledge, and, in doing so, tests new opportunities of sharing that are currently outside the cohousing orthodoxy.

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