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Social Urban Landscape

13 Sep

Throughout my studies, I have been fascinated by how to encourage socializing in cities. The Project for Public Spaces and Jan Gehl are producing excellent work to facilitate interaction at the city scale. But what about closer to home?

This NY Times article provides examples of “social buildings,” in which the neighbors have genuine relationships.

Factors identified that help forge neighborly connections include:

  1. A new building, in which everyone is a recent arrival
  2. The presence of children and/or dogs
  3. Quality common space.

Social Building

350 Bleecker Street, a 1960s era building, became increasingly social when the courtyard was transformed from a concrete wasteland “into an inviting plaza with fruit trees, tables with umbrellas, a couple of grills and an herb garden with a help-yourself policy.” The building also boasts city views from a roof deck that was designed and built by residents. 15 Broad Street also features ample common space, including a bowling alley, ballet studio and swimming pool. According to one resident, friendships are formed on roof deck, around the grills and a long communal table.

As density increases, I hope such spaces become a priority with architects, landscape architects and urban design panels. The modern “village” is our neighbors and requires the common space to assemble and interact. The Beasley, due to be built in honour of renowned Vancouver planner Larry Beasley, will feature a dog deck, likely to be a popular place, especially on rainy winter nights.

Community is so important to quality of life and its absence is a common reason people are averse to city life. A social city needs both small common areas and large public plazas.

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