Cohousing as an Inclusive Democracy
by Pablo Cousinou
Trabensol, an utopia at ground level // Building collaborative communities and spaces for participation
In a small village at the North of Madrid, an innovative initiative that offers an alternative role to the one usually reserved to old people in society has been implemented. Around one hundred cooperative members have seen how their dream came true through a new sustainable and South-oriented residential complex of fifty equal apartments adapted to their day-to-day needs. Born in 2000, the idea of creating the Trabensol housing cooperative (a name which come from the Spanish ‘Trabajadores en solidaridad’, meaning ‘Workers in solidarity’) is finally a reality.
Based on principles such as ‘we prefer to cooperate than to compete‘ or ‘we want to age being active and together with other people“, this elderly community has fought along the last years for the creation of this new space to live in the company of others, sharing and taken part of a common project that grows gradually. Activities as Chi kung, film-forum, yoga, Nordic walking, theatre, world dances, computers, etc. are part of the daily agenda not only of the Cooperative members but also of the inhabitants of the quiet village Torremocha del Jarama.
Among the key pillars in which the project is built, the Assembly process (through which every single community related issue is discussed once a week in the so-called “little assembly” and twice a year in the general one) plays a fundamental role. Likewise, transparency, self-management, independency and the commitment to ethical bank (which offered them the loan for the initial investment) complete the puzzle of practices and values that shape the actual community.
In addition, it was also fundamental from the beginning to implement the idea of E-cohousing, which is a sustainability and bioclimatic project added to the collective housing one. Despite it initially required a higher investment it was expected to reduce the maintenance costs in the future. In this point it was decisive the open communication with the architects at the Equipo Bloque arquitectos, who translated into form the wishes of the cooperative.
A clever response and solution against solitude and dependency frequently associated in contemporary western societies to the elderly. They seem to agree about Thomas Moro’s quote “community is the propitious develop for the man”, however the growing community needs a daily effort and collaboration in order to meet the challenge of its continuity and improvement. “We are now much busier, active and live than when we were at our individual houses” says Antonio Zugasti. last president of the cooperative “We are now working for creating a network of cohousing experiences in Europe in order to offer our know-how to future initiatives, that is our next dream” laughs Zugasti.
Degree in Communication at the University of Seville and Master Studies in Photography at the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Freelance photographer and assistant professor of Photography at the Faculty of Communication of EUSA (University of Seville). He coordinated the Master in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the same university. He has taught courses at the University of Aguascalientes (Mexico) and at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. Courses and workshops with Lewis Baltz, Bleda y Rosa, Xavier Ribas, Joan Foncuberta, Fernando Herráez, Cristina García Rodero and Alberto García-Alix, amongst others. Awarded by Intercampus Exchange Program Grant (2002), Injuve National Photography Contest (2006) and the Contemporarte Contest (2010). Has published on different national newspapers and journals: El País, ABC, 20 Minutos, Correo de Andalucía, Cuadernos de Pedagogía,etc. Has exhibit his work in several national and international galleries and institutions.
All material was provided by Pablo Cousinou.
The work was submitted by Pablo Cousinou on 16 November 2014.