The Cohousing Architecture: the process matters!

I want to live in a place I know it was built with care, I feel socially included and I know it will matter when I'm gone. Welcome to the Co-housing and Heritage renovation project Svartså Skola in Finland.

Conceptual rendering of apartment 1

On the Swedish Finnish Heritage day, last 6th November 2016, Svartså Skola made it’s first public info meeting, calling out for new residents, willing to invest in this great house.

The city of Porvoo put up for sale a Swedish-Finnish School of over 100 years old. Its location and architecture are unique, just beside the Black (Svartså) River.

Me, an architect from Portugal, who has been designing buildings all over the world for the past decade, decided to propose the City of Porvoo with a cohousing project for that site, to both save its heritage and revive the location.

In the course of my professional career, I have sadly undersigned several projects where heritage was destroyed for the sake of short term profit. Despite legal protections, the process of destruction of our identity, which is mirrored best by the annihilation of the local architecture, is alive and kicking. Most prominent is the so called facadism, where the inside of a building is put down, only preserving its façades. In plastic surgery its usually the other way around, the skin is changed, the inside stays! Anyone knows that the best are not the façade but the content. We wish not to have a package society of museum cities hollow from the inside. We wish for deeper meaning.

In this framework I have been directing my life path towards what I named “Architectural Democracy”, in using our built environment to foment its understanding in our everyday lives, and thus to have a better political decision making in the overall. In this spirit, this project is a natural consequence of my life's narrative. Co-Housing is like living in a totally normal flat (with a better design cause I did it!) with the added advantage of having very large communal spaces which allow meetings, dinners, sports, small businesses to run, etc. In the case of Svartsä Skola, there are no investors, meaning the prices are much lower. The architects who are designing it are also moving in (this should be a rule), so you can be sure of it's superior design!

We all now seek better and more cost effective ways to raise our families and increase collaboration with others. We seek to downsize and connect more with neighbors, allowing for aging-in-place. And we are more socially-conscious people which choose community-oriented and environmentally-friendly life styles. This includes the re usage and recycling not only of materials but of houses. Mixing different social strata and age groups will ensure, yes, some punctual conflict, but mostly, collaboration. The granny will be a great baby sitter for the young couple in need of a drink out! This solution has been proven successful, specially if allied with limitations on the selling and rental of flats, which deregulate such mix.

Two of the 12 apartments of this project are handicapped prepared. Well, they are prepared for all of us, as I like to see it. A ramp and a big bathroom helps everyone. Be sure you too will soon be next to need some handrail and slippery-proof floors either from injury or aging!

Me and Antti, the partner Architect, just had a dinner meeting in Helsinki with a German / Finnish couple interested in an apartment at Svartså Skola. They are neighbors of Svartså and gave us some nice tips on the location too. For example there is a very nice beach just 3 km away that the city of Porvoo has not been maintaining. This should be reactivated, and it could be so if more dynamic people come in to the neighborhood such as into our co-housing and build up the pressure for it. Another suggestion was that we should add more examples of fully furnished flats, specially for families to idealize how it could look like with further walls and extra up-stair toilets.

But hey, join us! Help us!

Svartså Skola is looking for residents which will act too as co-designers. This is a pilot project in Finland trying to shake for the better today's process of architecture and real estate.

Whether you are just curious about cohousing or serious about joining, just contact us!

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