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Design for Gender Equality: The History of Co-Housing Ideas and Realities

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Today's development of alternative types of housing with communal spaces and shared facilities, called co-housing, has been influenced by utopian visions, practical proposals and implemented projects far back in the past. This article traces the driving forces behind the various models of communitarian settlements, cooperative housekeeping, central kitchen buildings, collective housing and collaborative residential experiments, while focusing specifically on the design and gender aspects of these models. Emphasis is given to feminist arguments for co-housing, as well as a discussion of the patriarchal resistance to various forms of housing and living based on equality and neighbourly cooperation. The article includes an analysis of the relief from housework burdens and of the possibility for men to share more of the domestic tasks through this type of housing. The main research methods comprise analyses of literature and our own practical experiences of co-housing. We claim that co-housing in Scandinavia and some other countries has contributed to a more equal distribution of responsibilities for housework. However, the number of people living in co-housing is still too small to influence the gender segregation of labour markets. Furthermore it is concluded that design factors, such as the quality of shared spaces, easy access to common rooms and indoor communication, are important for the smooth functioning of co-housing.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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