Having just moved from a rural, car-dependent area to a walkable, quintessentially New England town center, I’m excited to meet my new neighbors. “Community” means so much more than a geographic location – it’s the people who dwell there and how they relate to each other.
Few people have studied community more than architect Ross Chapin, a longtime advocate of small houses. Chapin has championed pocket neighborhoods for decades, and he designed one of the most famous examples: Third Street Cottages in Langley, Washington. Since not everyone is so lucky to live in a pocket neighborhood, Chapin offers 10 strategies for creating that same kind of community in any living situation. Read the whole thing here, or read my summary below.
Strategies 1, 2, and 3 involve the use of your front yard: eat meals where passersby can interact with you, plant a vegetable garden near the street, and build a welcoming porch. Strategy 4 addresses security concerns through layers of privacy: a low fence or hedge to demarcate the property in a friendly way, trees to obscure views into the house.
Strategies 5, 6, and 7 are fun ways to bring neighbors physically together: remove backyard fences, erect a Little Free Library, and host a block party in the middle of the street. Strategies 8, 9, and 10 help neighbors to establish trust and look out for each other: create emergency plans, use an online forum to make announcements and share goods and ideas, and simply “be a good neighbor”.
I believe I can enact nearly all of these strategies in my new home. Stay tuned for a progress report in a few months. My favorite principle is the conventional wisdom that Chapin turns on its head… perhaps good fences make good neighbors, but NO fences make even better neighbors.
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