Aspens, Elevations, and Inspiration

Design Synthesis Workshop by Katie Gilbertson

It wasn’t until after the site, common house, and private homes were designed by the community members that I began to look seriously into Bozeman Cohousing. Although I don’t shy away from giant, spontaneous leaps in life (that may be an understatement), something about having these elements planned made it more tangible and safe for me to consider. Or maybe it was the beautiful property near town and non-astronomically-priced-homes that told me to step forward? The members had already brainstormed how to make this neighborhood fulfill everyone’s need for privacy, community, and sustainability. When I read through all the plans and reviewed the videos of how it came to be, I admit feeling a bit saddened to not be a part of this significant process.  Because as a documentary editor, I enjoy the back and forth of collaborative art. Luckily, just after I joined Bozeman Cohousing, the Design Synthesis Workshop happened. I may not have had a hand in the first part, but I was thrilled to join in the process. 

Before the workshop, we were sent a series of videos to watch about the next unfolding of the designs so that we didn’t spend valuable discussion time with presentations. These videos from our architectural team took the flat images of the plans and turned them into “elevations”.  In cohousing the members don the hat of developer and must think of the plan as a developer would, not just about our personal needs. In being thrust into that role, I get Developing Property 101 for Dummies. For me this also means learning the stages and lingo. So, “elevations” are kind of in between 2D and 3D. They’re not 3D, but we get to see the fronts and sides of the buildings rendered out, like we’re looking at a picture straight on, not just a top down view. This was so exciting to see it grow – to witness this flat surface beginning to sprout. 

The main objective of the workshop was to discuss what worked vs. what didn’t, to clear up confusions, and to make sure nothing was overlooked. We accomplished this by breaking into smaller Zoom breakout groups to achieve greater breadth of ideas. Different groups iterate in different directions vs. one large group getting bogged down. In the small groups we began sharing what we liked and didn’t want to lose, and then progressed to questions or concerns about what we were seeing. After an hour we all returned to the main meeting to share our insights with the others. For example: the door into the common kitchen from the mail room will knock into someone at the refrigerator. Flip directions. 

So our crash course in development continues as we learn what elevations show and don’t show, and how we have a hard time seeing past the flat. Many of us had a misunderstanding of the designs because we were still only seeing them in 2D and without life growing on and around them. People felt concerned with the austere feeling of the black and white palette across the buildings and requested more color and warmth. During the second night of our workshop the architects showed us how the color wraps around the buildings and that the lack of depth in the elevations makes buildings appear stark. When they showed us a mock 3D, I could see the warmth of the wood and new geometric shapes emerging. I breathed a sigh of relief. Their inspiration of an aspen tree palate balanced with brilliant color will make a peaceful and vibrant frame for our lives. I must say: at this point I’m thrilled to get to live in such a beautifully and thoughtfully designed home and neighborhood. 

Enjoying a community dinner on a lovely summer evening on the southern terrace outside the common house
Enjoying the sunny atrium on a winter’s day. The atrium connects the common house to several of the homes.

The Aesthetics of Bozeman Cohousing

Architects, Erik Bonnett and Mathilde Berthe from Studio CoHab, walk us through the process used to generate the proposed aesthetic style and color scheme for Bozeman Cohousing. This video recreates a presentation given during the workshop, and was created for the benefit of future members of the community.

“Make little decisions with your head and big decisions with your heart.”

Advice from a new member by Anne Johnson

A community created by neighbors with a shared vision for sustainability and connection. Smart, friendly people advancing the project. Contagious enthusiasm, obvious commitment. Expertise right and left. A reasonable timeline. Conceptually, I was all in. But– details. How is the project funded? Who’s designing it? What are the home sizes and configurations? Will I have enough privacy? What exactly am I committing to if I become a member? Will my personal financial situation allow it? Some questions are unanswerable at this point in the project—can I live with some unknowns? And so on and on and on.

I did my research. Read books, looked at other co-housing communities online, spoke with various advisors, friends, Bozeman Cohousing community members. Asked a lot of questions, and more questions. I weighed the facts, the risks, the pros and cons, the ifs/thens. For days, I wanted to make a decision, but there I was, running around and around on a mental hamster wheel. Yes… But… Maybe… What about…?

So one lovely summer evening, I visited the property. Just being there brought a sense of ease. I envisioned the common house, the gardens, the orchards. Well-built homes facing walkways rather than streets. Conversations not spoken over traffic noise. I imagined kids and adults of all ages interacting all around the neighborhood. I could see myself working with others to make real decisions, to support each other, celebrating things both big and little. I could even see “me time” in my cozy new home. The squeaky hamster wheel finally slowed down, and my heart spoke up. And I listened, I heard, and I decided. I’m all in. Join me!

Homes are selling fast. Don’t wait to join!

The progression of a cohousing development is continually moving from the abstract to the concrete.  When Bozeman Cohousing first began in April of 2019, there were only two households, no land, and only a vague vision of what was to come.  As the project has progressed, we secured an amazing 5 acre property only 2 miles from downtown.  We have hired a cohousing consultant, architects, a civil engineer, and a developer.  The site plan has been designed so that we know where the homes and open spaces will be on the property.  We have finalized floor plans for a variety of different sizes and layouts of homes.  As you read this, our architects are now working on the 3D building designs and renderings, which will take the vision out of our heads and on to a piece of paper.  We plan to begin construction in just 9 short months.

Ground level flats are popular for aging in place

Along the way, many new families and individuals have joined to help shape this vision and turn it into a reality.  Over the past few weeks, the number of applicants applying for membership has increased dramatically.  We are starting to have shortages of specific floor plans.  Due to the high demand of 3 bedroom townhouses, we recently voted to switch some of our 2-bedroom townhouses to 3-bedroom townhouses.  We still have a limited number of both of these home types available, but they won’t last long.  Our other most popular home types are the ground level 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom flats, perfect for aging in place or families that want a smaller home but still have access to a private backyard. 

If you have been waiting for the right time to attend a webinar or come to a site tour to learn more about our project, don’t wait any longer.  We currently still have homes available, but they are starting to sell fast.  Haystack Heights cohousing in Spokane, WA recently began construction and set the precedent of having all 39 of their homes pre-sold.  With more people than ever looking for a stronger sense of community and support to help raise their young children or provide stability as they age in place, these homes won’t last long.  Email us today to learn about the homes we still have available.  

Cohousing Spotlight: Aliyah

Aliyah is part of the VISIONS group that is helping with demolition at Bozeman Cohousing. She arrived in Montana for the summer from Atlanta, where she lives in the metro-urban cohousing neighborhood known as East Lake Commons. With 60 households, the hallmark cohousing common house, and a member-run farm known as “Love is Love Farm,” Aliyah says that it’s been a great place to grow up. Now 16, she’s lived at East Lake Commons since she was an infant and has lifelong friends with the many teens in her neighborhood, as well as people of all generations. It’s been a treat to have Aliyah here this summer, and to share some of her stories and wisdom of the richness of growing up in cohousing.