There is enough literature available now to know that the way we shape and build our communities has a strong impact on our individual and collective happiness. Why some communities continue to ignore these core human principles is beyond me, but if we can build places based on the fundamental knowledge we already have, then we can build better places for human interaction and happiness. More from Better! Cities & Towns:
The way we design our communities plays a huge role in how we experience our lives. Neighborhoods built without sidewalks, for instance, mean that people walk less and therefore enjoy fewer spontaneous encounters, which is what instills a spirit of community to a place…You don’t have to be a therapist to realize that this creates lasting psychological effects. It thwarts the connections between people that encourage us to congregate, cooperate, and work for the common good. We retreat into ever more privatized existences.
Groupings of four to twelve households make an ideal community “where meaningful ‘neighborly’ relationships are fostered.” But even here, design shapes our destiny. Chapin explains that strong connections between neighbors develop most fully and organically when everyone shares some “common ground.” That can be a semi-public space, as in the pocket neighborhoods Chapin designs in the Seattle area.