Navigating tricky urban sites to build a low impact, and beautiful cohousing scheme for local people

Oxford Cohousing

Transition by Design have known members of the Oxford Cohousing group since 2014. So, when they approached us in 2019 asking us to help them design and build the homes they would like to live in, we jumped at the chance.

The project was a perfect opportunity for us to combine our architectural services with our accredited technical advice on community-led housing; and, nimbly explore the feasibility of two sites in the heart of the city for Oxford’s first cohousing development. Having these skills under one roof enables our architecture team to embed a comprehensive understanding of community-led housing in our designs from day one, pre-empting solutions to later challenges in the design process.

We supported the group in better understanding their collective vision and brief through codesign workshops; using model making and participatory methods to really help them to visualise what they want from their future homes. Collaborative design is an integral part of our design process; allowing quality listening time with our clients as well as building the confidence within the core group, transferring skills and knowledge wherever possible. 

Fran Ryan from Oxford Cohousing was positive about the experience of working together saying “we have worked with T/D at several points since 2014 and cannot recommend them highly enough.”

They have been into Passivhaus from the start of their practice and know more than any other practice I know about how to do it affordably

Fran Ryan, Oxford Cohousing

She added: “T/D have been promoting community-led housing before it became a buzz word.  They believe in building community into design by designing with the community.  And they are genuinely skilled in these processes which, in my experience most other practices are not.   They have been into Passivhaus from the start of their practice and know more than any other practice I know about how to do it affordably.  They are thought leaders when it comes to housing design.” 

The vision for Oxford Co-housing

Over the years we have learnt it is important to understand the needs of the group and to use the design process to explore different opinions and perspectives to find neat solutions for each project. Navigating the community-led housing journey can be messy but we love that mess – engaging in the nuance of groups, listening to questions and concerns and building a robust collective understanding is where we think great community design comes from, and it’s where we do our best work. 

We’ve supported Oxford Cohousing to a place where they are confident in the suitability of their land options as they move towards developing a full planning application on their preferred site. We are excited to see the group’s carefully crafted vision come to fruition for a community-led housing project developed by the community, for the community.