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Bay State Cohousing

French 2D

Malden, Massachusetts, United States



Anda French (Project Lead), Jenny French (Project Lead)


Linda Neshamkin (Associated Architect), TF Moran, Inc (Structural Engineer), Norian/Siani Engineering, Inc. (MEPF Engineer), H.W. Moore Associates, a division of Hancock Associates (Civil Engineer), CBA Landscape Architects, LLC (Landscape Architect


Bay State Cohousing - contact: Margaret Bradley


Naho Kubota


We designed the 30-unit project through a collaborative process with the self-developing residents, prioritizing community, adaptability, and environmental stewardship, and ran 15 consensus-based workshops, prioritizing inclusivity and accessibility for the residents, aged 0-93 with differing needs.

The architecture emphasizes connection through visual transparency and collective awareness in its asymmetrical layouts and semi-enclosed courtyard, blending outdoors and indoors. This fosters social interactions across scales—from intimate nooks to large communal areas.

A deep first floor plan accommodates the large common spaces, which in turn allows for shared terraces above as the common spaces shrink as they rise. The first floor hides a garage below with a green roof, while terracing produces stealthy single loaded corridors above, creating cross ventilation and connected views for engagement. The open southwest corner of the courtyard invites golden-hour sun to the common dining room, drawing inhabitants in towards dinner. It welcomes summer breezes and blocks winter’s prevailing winds. At a material scale, the affordable sound-dampening felt ceiling in the communal dining room is playfully designed to counter any institutional feeling.

Framed in prefabricated wood panels and scissor trusses, and clad in fiber cement lap siding, the project reimagines the familiar construction methods of residential complexes. It uses this repetitive malleable construction type to efficiently unravel the typical double-loaded corridor box, instead nesting a series of delicate spaces around the interior partial courtyard, while keeping construction costs below $260/sf. The electric HVAC system contributes to a building design that is 71% below the energy use baseline.


Bay State Cohousing sits 750’ from Boston's Orange Line subway and bustling downtown Malden. The project quietly integrates with its urban context, while radically addressing social, economic, and political aspects of its site. In response to the effects of social isolation, the design fosters community resilience in response to the unique financial model and social compacts of collective living in a capitalist society. Decisions about scale of units, flexibility of common spaces, and multiple routes of circulation were made with attention to adaptability and evolution.

Designed for and with 30 households, it manages limited urban space by building upwards, stacking and interlocking units, creating small private quarters and expansive shared areas, and encouraging community living within a constrained ¾-acre site. This approach contrasts with North America's typical horizontal cohousing developments, advocating for a consolidated shared lifestyle and transforming former parking lots into accessible terraced gardens that soften an 8’ grade change.

The project connects with its surroundings by blending the mixed scale of institutional and residential buildings. Built at a moment when the diversity of the existing neighborhood was threatened by impersonal new multifamily luxury housing, with its neutral to nonexistent community engagement, this project encourages the opposite - a community within a community - with the designed capacity to welcome in neighbors.

The design process is a model for advocacy, as we navigated the political challenges of a city-wide building moratorium and new zoning restrictions by working with Malden to write a Cohousing Zoning Ordinance supporting higher density shared living.


Because this is a living intentional community that shares its own stories, we have the privilege of continuing to witness its evolution. Color, light and unexpected attention to corners, nooks and borrowed views all contribute to a liveliness and playfulness in the community. The official policies and governance structure are also now transforming as they come in contact with the physical affordances of the building. On a visit after their first New Year’s Eve, one resident excitedly told us about their surprise with how well the felt ceiling in the common dining room kept the noise levels comfortable for everyone. As the community learns to utilize all that the building offers, we have seen how their policies are intertwined with physical space - often lessening some of their pre-construction fears of noise and sharing.

Our focus on architectural breaks and asymmetries in plan to create reciprocal connections was immediately embraced. We were delighted to see a hammock set up on the second-floor balcony at a diagonal in line with two shared decks, with one of our clients happily reading while greeting us from across the courtyard.

The clients are highly attuned to ways to further reduce consumption in this intentional community. They have set up rain barrel collection for irrigation and have intensively gardened the terraces. The residents share weekly dinners and many other events indoors and out, seamlessly activating every corner of the building and site.

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