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!

Member Spotlight: Marni Rolston

Here’s a little about our family:  I’m married to Jed Huseby; we have two children, Ida May, 15, and Sorin, 11.  Jed and I each moved to Bozeman in the early 1990’s, but didn’t meet until 2000, at a Bozeman contra-dance.  I attended the first Bozeman Cohousing community event at the Lindley Center in April of 2019 and have been thinking about it ever since.  

We are interested in Bozeman Cohousing because our daughter has special needs, and as we think about what her future might look like, we know that one of the most important things she will need as she becomes an adult is a stable community of people who will be a part of her life for many years or even decades.  We anticipate that Ida May might thrive in this intentional community; perhaps with a roommate who provides some support.  I’ve been anxious about what her future would look like for many years, and when I first heard about cohousing, I finally felt like this could be a place where she could live and thrive. 

Ida May is an incredibly social person, who thrives when she feels she is part of a community.  She will be in 10th grade next year, and enjoys hiking with her family, hanging out with friends, dancing, riding her bike around town, anything octopus-related, arts and crafts, and connecting with others.  She has spent a lot of time participating in almost every activity offered by Eagle Mount.  She is an engaging teenager who wants to be as independent as possible, and Bozeman Cohousing seems like it would be an excellent fit for her.

I think Ida has a lot to offer this growing community.  She has an inquisitive mind, a playful spirit, and a love of people.  She has a way of bringing people together, and her exuberance at seeing someone she knows is contagious.  She delights in being with young children and animals.  I envision her reading books to kids while their parents prepare meals in the common house, helping neighbors plant flowers, delivering mail to a neighbor who is home-bound, and many other helpful gestures.  

Member Spotlight: Lynn Hellenga

The first eighteen years of my life were spent in Devils Lake, North Dakota. The same home town both of my parents grew up in. I’m a retired Registered Dietician/Nutritionist, most recently working at MSU on a Center for Disease Control and Prevention grant. Presently I nanny part -time a 15 month old child, and parent our two sons. Alex is 19 taking a gap year, and Braeden will be a Senior at Bozeman High this fall.

As many 50 something’s I enjoy the outside activities Bozeman and Gallatin valley has to offer year round. My family also enjoys participating in international home exchanges. These exchanges have allowed us to travel to many countries, live overseas and gain a sense of basic everyday living through living in other established households.

For me, the concept of Cohousing is a way to have deep connection to multigenerational families through daily activities and informal interaction. The idea of downsizing, sharing a common house, gardens, livestock and chores through Co-housing is of interest to me. It will allow me to try new things and still be able to travel. The idea of moving from our large family house to a Cohousing community to “age in place” is appealing to me as well.