Greyrock Commons Cohousing: 20 Years Later
Greyrock Commons Cohousing Community celebrated their 20th Anniversary in June 2016. As one of the principal architects involved in the design of the community, alongside architect David Barrett, Dominique Gettliffe was honored to attend the event and to witness how the Greyrock community had evolved and grown.
Coming into the project in 1992, Dominique had personal experience with cohousing, and felt a connection to the community’s values. Greyrock was formed with principles of social and environmental responsibility, and Dominique remembers how impressed he was with the group’s ability to balance their idealism with a drive to realize their vision. He sensed that the community members felt real pleasure in working together, sharing responsibility, and forging ahead despite obstacles.
At Greyrock, private townhomes are intermixed with centralized common areas including a playground, chicken house, gardens, work sheds, a Common House, and untouched natural area. Dominique had ongoing dialogues with the community’s 30 families, in adapting and modifying 1 of 4 energy efficient townhome designs to each family’s specifications. The higher density housing style and efficient layout of the community allows for over half of their land to remain as preserved natural space, providing a sanctuary for wildlife.
For the Common House, Dominique and David focused on making the design functional as a multipurpose space for a diverse community. Twenty years later, the Common House continues to offer an engaging and functional layout, alternating “solid” and “open” areas — “alcoves with punctuation.” The house includes a kitchen, dining area, living area, a children’s play area complete with vertical ladders and platforms, a romper room, guest bedrooms, storage areas and a pantry, bathroom, and mailroom. The community’s other shared areas have also matured and evolved. The community gardens are now surrounded by an ingenious “chicken moat” – two spaced rows of fence to keep out deer, an irrigation ditch, and flock of chickens that help protect the gardens from grasshoppers.
Dominique describes a “crescendo” from private to public that exists in a cohousing community like Greyrock — from the individual home, to the neighborhood block, to the community’s shared areas, to the surrounding neighborhoods, and out to the City of Fort Collins and beyond. He sees a social benefit, particularly for seniors and children, for community members to have access to “semi public” spaces like the Common House. This conceptual gradient opposes the private/public dichotomy as it is typically expressed in American housing. At Greyrock there is an emphasis on integration with surrounding communities, and a focus on convivial living centralized around shared resources.
20 years later, Greyrock continues to mature and evolve as a community, with a vibrant mixture of original families and newly welcomed ones and a diversity of ages and experience. The anniversary was an opportunity to celebrate the success of a community that values “living lightly on the earth,” and to look back at the enormous amount of dedication it took to realize that vision.