BOFÆLLESSKAB – Happiness of the commons in Denmark

The houses form an open circle around the common yard. It is June, there is a crisp blue sky, and the garden is alive with the sounds of children playing ufabet. Children from different families are running in and out of the houses.

BOFÆLLESSKAB – Happiness of the commons in Denmark

BOFÆLLESSKAB - Happiness of the commons in Denmark

Unlike most kids these days, these boys and girls are growing up with an unusual combination of freedom and security. Some of them are playing kubb-a lawn game said to have originated in the Viking age, in which you throw sticks at other sticks. A dog is watching, as if the game were the greatest invention ever. Other kids are gathered around a campfire with a couple of grown-ups.

The place is called Fælleshaven. Yes, it is another compound word. Fælles means ‘common’ and haven means ‘garden’. It is a bofællesskab. Fællesskab means ‘community’ and bo means ‘to live’. A bofællesskab is a co-housing scheme which originated in Denmark but rapidly spread to the rest of Scandinavia and onwarda

The initiators were families and individuals who were discontent with then current ways of living. One of them was Bodil Graa, who wrote an opinion piece called Children Should Have One Hundred Parents’ in one of the major papers in Denmark and asked for likeminded people to get in touch with her. Many did and, five years later, in 1972, the construction of the bofællesskab Sætterdammen was finished. It consisted of twenty-seven independent houses and a large common house and is situated near Hillerød, north of Copenhagen. It still exists today, and seventy people live there. They have a waiting list of those who would like to buy vacant homes. Today, around fifty thousand people live in co-housing in Denmark and it is still growing in popularity.