If your intentional community is a collectivist one, in which meals are eaten communally, then the Common house will be the heart of your community. A well designed Common house draws people in. Around the dinner table is where much of the bonding of your community will take place so making the eating and meeting space intimate and functional will encourage people to stay and socialize.
Defining your needs
Most people have never used or had a “Common house” so defining what you need versus what you want may be hard. The described from Denmark offer some clues and community buildings, especially churches can offer some suggestions. One idea is to rent a camp or park building for a weekend retreat for the entire group. By using a large community building in a state or local park you can learn a great deal about what makes a good one. Have members visit other Cohousing and intentional communities in your area and don’t be shy of measuring off spaces which work.
Kitchen design is both a science and an art. Many groups have hired a kitchen specialist to do their food service design and have a separate group in charge of kitchen design. Think about where utensils, pots and pans etc. will be stored and think of ease of use and access. Remember that a variety of people will be using this space and will not know where things are kept.
Plan how will food get from the stove to the food service You don’t want to carry hot dishes through a crowd. Think about how people will line up to get their food and make this easy and fast. If you are doing a commercial sized kitchen there may be code issues you need to be aware of. For example, in some areas the dinner dishes can not be washed in the same location as the pots and pans and meal preparation utensils. Be sure to confirm with your architect that they have a thorough understanding of commercial kitchen design. Be cautious about using commercial stoves. Commercial stoves are often not insulated and can require expensive fire suppression hoods, which can cost as much or more than the stove itself. Many groups are using high end residential stoves and gas tops with success which are cheaper, well insulated to avoid burns, and often need a smaller, much less expensive hood.
There are logical “work triangles” involving the sink, the stove, counters and food storage areas and you will want to design for teams of three or so. A central work island makes a good social space for people to talk as they chop vegetables and prepare food but place it carefully so it doesn’t interfere with the work triangle.
There are also logical flow patterns for food service and scullery (cleanup). Create a “flow of the dishes” diagram which covers where people pick up plates, how the food gets on them, how the dirty plates get back to the kitchen, how they get to the dishwasher, where the dishes are stored to dry, etc.