Portfolio Project Detail

Aspen Cooperative Richard Schunemann, Vaia Vakouli, and Thomas Henderson Schwartz

Aspen groves are the largest living organisms on earth. Their underground networks connect otherwise disparate trunks allowing the species to flourish in even the most hostile environments. The Aspen Cooperative imagines how a microcosm of society could work together like the aspen groves; connected and feeding off each other’s skills, energy, knowledge and love to form a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts.

The political and economic climate globally is having serious consequences for many working people. Homelessness and unfordable rents are leaving large swathes of society behind.

Even relatively wealthy Denver is not exempt from these hardships:
8% increase in homelessness (2018-19)
750 homeless veterans
30% of residents paying unsustainable rates of rent (more than 50% household income)

Furthermore, global climate change is threatening our very existence as a species. The current built infrastructure in Denver is highly dependent upon air conditioning for the hot summers and heating via fossil fuel sources for the cold winters. This can not continue if we intend to leave a viable planet for the next generation to inhabit.

The Aspen cooperative knits economic, environmental and social sustainability together. People contribute in ways that are appropriate for their age and capabilities.

Social Sustainability – Living Together
The Aspen Co-operative challenges the typology of the cellular family home by providing accommodation that explores different levels of privacy. Clusters of 8-10 people are formed with shared living, cooking and dining facilities. The base cluster design is flexible to adapt to a variety of mixes of people. Each cluster forms a mini unit to help another with daily life, be it ad hoc child care, emotional support or daily tasks. Furthermore the overall cooperative has shared facilities (laundry, car share, co-working, gardens/farms) for clusters to come together and form a community.

Economic Sustainability – Working Together In Social Enterprises
The ground floor of the Aspen Cooperative is where the community opens up to the city. A large open space area will provide space for a café/bar, co-working and event space. An onsite brewery serves the bar, and high yielding spice farming, alongside lavender production and beehives provide a produce the cooperative can use to generate its own economy. We highly recommend tasting the speciality lavender IPA!

Environmental sustainability – Living with Environment
The buildings are designed to be entirely naturally ventilated to deal with the hot summers experienced in Denver. Narrow plans arranged in strips north-south harness the prevailing winds. Strategies such as rainwater harvesting, recycling of water, collecting solar energy all allow the building to operate with minimal energy demands.

Embodied carbon is limited using Cross laminated timber as the primary structure. The outer walls are formed from earth at lower levels. Above, insulated plaster panels provide a lightweight and airtight seal.