CASESTUDY: COOPERATIVE HOUSING
INTRO Cooperative housing is not an architectural style. Coop buildings vary from rather small projects with a few apartments to real coop towns. They go from prewar up to brand new buildings. Cooperative housing is in essence a statutory construction that results into a micro-community. In a housing cooperative, you don’t own a housing unit, but you are a shareholder in a legal entity that owns the real estate. In an “occupancy agreement” or a “proprietary lease”, you are granted the right to occupy part of the building. So, it is essentially a lease. Most of the income of the coop, comes from the rents paid by its residents, who are shareholders, a coop is de facto non-profit. There is no point in creating a deliberate surplus except for operational requirements such as setting aside funds for the replacement of assets. This makes it interesting for rich and poor. The poor do not have to pay unnecessary rent to the landlord and the rich can invest together in luxury. In that way, they can make sure that the value of their real estate operation decreases less in value over time. The board leads the co-op. In small co-op’s, all members sit on the board but in large co-op’s the board is elected. Normally the members of the board are volunteers but in large co-op’s, members can also be remunerated. The cooperation can own more than only residential units. Some of them have childcare, a library, a meeting room or even swimming pools. The social impact of this economic entity can not be underestimated. All residents are involved in a dialogue. They show more respect for the communal areas because they feel connected. In history, co-op’s are also widely used by people that have a certain common affinity. There are many examples of coops from artists or veterans of the Vietnam War. The social aspect is indeed the big difference between a cooperation and a condominium. In condominiums, everyone owns his own apartment and takes care of it to make sure that their property decreases less in value. They can not decide on major repairs on all units and they can not decide who will be living in a vacant apartment. In New York, there is a higher concentration of co-op programs than in other parts of America. There are several reasons for this: - - - -
The strict and complicated rent control laws have made many landlords want to get out of the rental property market. Co-ops have a very long history. Inspired by Abram Kazer, cooperatives appeared at least as far back as the 1920’s. Condominiums, on the other hand, were not legal in NYC until 1964. In an older building, major new investments are required to repair or replace building parts. Money can then be raised by a new central mortgage in a cooperative organisation. In a condo, funds can only be raised by onerous assessments of the charges that need to be made to individual unit owners. A co-op building’s board can determine its own business rules and impose restrictions on shareholders. They can reject prospective members without explanation, as long as the board does not violate federal, state housing or civil rights laws.
HOTEL DES ARTISTES In 1903, West 67th street, located in Central Park, was a street of light industry where the first studio building was constructed. A syndicate of artists build their own co-op on the north side of the street at No 27. At the back were double-height studio spaces with the traditional artists northern light. At the front, there ware smaller single-height rooms. This building functioned as a magnet and attracted many artists. By 1915, there were four co-op’s built in the street and it was the place to be at the art scene in New York City. At that moment the painter Penrhyn Stanlaws, who lived already in the street, decided to set up a syndicate that would built the biggest co-op in the street at address 1: Hotel des Artistes. The design is from George Mort Pollard, who already had designed two of the four other co-op’s in West 67th street. The gothic-stile H-plan building was 45 meters (150 feet) wide, with 72 apartments, had 10 floor’s and a cost of $ 1,2 million. It was build as a co-op but it also had rental units. Unlike the first co-op in the street, Hotel des Artistes had also southern-light studios facing the street. Although many apartments were customized during construction, a typical floor had eight small studios at the front and four small and two double-size studios at the rear. Most of the apartments were small, and there were plenty of one-person households. But Aaron Naumburg , a fur dealer , had an expensive apartment at the top of the building that covered three floors and was filled with art and furnishings. Besides the work-live studio’s there were other functions in the building such as a swimming pool, a squash court, a sun room, a ballroom, a café (Café des Artistes), a first-floor grill and, on the second floor a much larger restaurant. The apartments did not have kitchens, they were added later. Instead, the chef’s salary and other dining expenses were integrated in the co-op budget.
MISS SARGFABRIK The self-founding cooperative “Verein für integrative Lebensgestaltung – Vienna” decided in 1998 to make a cooperative housing project called the “Miss Sargfabrik” in Vienna. They engaged the BKK-3 architects, Franz Summitsch and Johnny Winter and they set up an innovating participation project. These architects (they were then called BKK-2) had already experience with a cooperative building one block away. It was called Sfabrikg with residential apartments, a cultural centre, seminar rooms, a child care and a pool. The participation was first to initiate a discussion and planning process which involved future tenants, the existing cooperative and the architects. They defined the approaches of the project. This participation process lasted for one and a half year with weekly meetings. The idea was: “The discussion continues where the individual is bound to stop thinking.” The building had to be eco friendly , the architects used wall heating systems with low temperature and the outer shell was fully insulated. They choose also eco friendly materials like Rockwool, gypsum, wooden floors, absence of pvc and others. Another important characteristic are big spaces with natural light and large windows. But most important is how the building promotes the encounter between people. It supports communication in a self determined society, in an obliging neighbourhood. The architects describe it as: “It’s about establishing a new tribe in the city.” In the building there is a wide variety of types. You have units that are intended for short stays as temporary accommodation for guests, flats for young people who have left home, and students. The types on the ground floor are designed, as five “home offices”, studio’s to combine living and working. Miss Sargfabrik houses also an apartment sharing community for parentless children’s and young people. The apartments are not separated by a straight wall but by a crippling wall so that a “Ying-flat” and a “Yang-flat” was made. In the section we see that the sloping floor makes spaces between 226 and 320 centimetres room height. The architects describe it as “a three-dimensional landscape transformed into a building.” This is something an ordinary developer never would propose because it contains a too big marketing risk. The objective of the cooperative is: living – culture – integration. This objective is in the building by the mix of residential units and meeting places for people of all ages and cultures. The common rooms are situated on the second floor. There is a multifunctional medialibrary, a free-of-charge common kitchen with a dining area, a laundry room and also some teleworking stations. The laundry room is heavily frequented and becomes very important. So this room is visually and physically connected with the other common rooms. The individual functions benefit from each other and eventually create a synergetic effect. There is also a clubroom for teenagers for their unsupervised use in the cellar. The room is heavenly noise insulated and is used for music education. Miss Sargfabrik has created some fulltime jobs to maintain there own property management. There are about 12 employees for cleaning, technical works, culture and event management and a restaurant.
CONCLUSION A co-op is a rather old type of housing and comes in very different guises. Today, it is less used because it is difficult to realize. Therefore there are more and more condominiums built to express the need for additional functions associated with the residential units. But condominiums clearly miss the social aspect that the co-op can offer. This type of construction provides a more optimal use of open space and offers a variety of housing types. It is perhaps a type that can provide a solution to the current economic situation and the current trend for more singles and less traditional families. As a kind of self-organizing system that bring people together whether or not in the interest of their own economic situation.
Sources Internet: - www.wikipedia.com , last consulted 25/10/2011 - www.BKK3.com , last consulted 25/10/2011 - www.nytimes.com , last consulted 25/10/2011 - www.urbaninform.net , last consulted 25/10/2011 Bookâ€™s: - Hilary French (2008), Key urban housing of the twentieth century, New York / London, W.W. Norton & Company.