Book Review: Cohousing For Life

30 August 2020

Book Review: 

Cohousing For Life. A Practical and Personal Story of Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood

by Robin Allison

Mary Egan Publishing 2020  (278 pages)

available via Robin Allison website


Review by Megan Rule of South Pacific Architecture Ltd

There is measurable evidence today that healthier and happier lives reduce health, crime and social burdens on our economy

Against the odds this visionary, sustainable neighbourhood has been realised through the determination and tenacity of a small group of people with a common purpose and goal - an extraordinary and gritty story about a pioneering journey. In Cohousing For Life, the life of a trained architect is intimately revealed in an engaging and informative way, woven between the immediate challenge of tasks at hand and personal context of life.

The book is divided in 15 chapters that introduce the author’s background, develop a vision, design, staged construction, post occupancy evaluation and concluding reflection on leadership and learnings from their outcomes. Each chapter ends with a summary of key ideas, while highlighted boxes and diagrams outline principles. Together with dispersed photos throughout, it offers informative practical guidance distilled from a collective experience.

Not since McCamant, Durrett and Hertzman’s Cohousing- A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, lauded by New York Times as a bible, have I seen such an informative dedicated guide to a successful process and journey, along with the challenges and lessons learned. As ideals and concerns reminiscent of 1970s emerge from 2020, this is a timely and up to date volume showing us another, arguably better, proven pathway by design, to stronger community of people for people.

I am reminded of the late architect Ian Athfield’s own intentional and infamous house in Wellington that has evolved over numerous decades consuming a workplace and several households into its treatise. In comparison, Earthsong offers a regenerative eco-friendly 32 residences together with shared community venue and further workspace potential.

This book will not only be of interest to those considering Cohousing as a way forward, or those well down the path, but also for anyone interested in the life of an architect, their contribution, and impact they bring to their neighbourhood and wider community.

I have over the last couple of decades admired the tenacity and perseverance of Robin and the cohousing team who against the flow and well ahead of their time have taken a proven methodology and showed how it can work in a successful and ground breaking project.

This book spotlights Earthsong as a model that can and has informed many of us as it was intended.

Review by Megan Rule of South Pacific Architecture Ltd

Note: Book launch re-scheduled due to Lockdown, book available online.

More media:

Kylie Klein-Nixon, Aug 22 2020 Stuff Bring it Home: Robin Allison sings praises of connection and earthsong

Robin was one of the Finalists in the Chrystall Award category, A+W NZ Dulux Awards 2020.