Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pocket Neighborhoods - Stronger Communities

Not long ago I attended an inspiring lecture by Architect Ross Chapin who is widely known for his work regarding pocket neighborhoods. He’s made a career from providing meaningful, close-knit communities for people that seek a common interest in what they call home. Ross Chapin’s pocket neighborhood designs are typically clustered groups of houses centered around “shared” spaces such as gardens and courtyards with pedestrian streets and paths that link the development together. The emphasis of these designs is to bring “community” and connectivity to neighbors.

There is a surreal simplicity to the village like design. The images he shared conveyed cozy neighborhoods with vibrant landscapes. Low fences disappear into lush gardens and meandering walkways reveal an inviting chair on the porch of a bungalow. One consistent and pleasing theme that resonated throughout each planned development was to create a neighborhood inside a neighborhood that all people share and call home.

These are the type of design principles that can strengthen the existing fabric of our local communities, especially in predetermined neighborhoods. Some of our local neighborhoods have community gardens, dog parks, playgrounds and even farmers’ markets. Chapin would say these are ideal communal places around which to focus our residential planning. This kind of development ideology can certainly help to better our neighborhoods, which in turn strengthens our communities. These strategies should be part of our local zoning. Get involved with your local officials to discuss creating small intimate neighborhoods. Begin this conversation and subsequently communities will emerge.

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