Density, Neighborliness, and the Concentrated ‘We’

Density, Neighborliness, and the Concentrated ‘We’

Apr 03

Learn in Living, Sustainability and CitiesApril 3, 2013 at 10:15 AM

NOTE: This article was discovered Here.

When I think about neighbors, I think about density. That’s likely because my work includes occasionally travelling the world talking about great city-building, including what I call “density done well.”

I discuss all the public interest benefits of smart densification in cities, designing for more people on less land using less resources, from lowering our carbon footprint and increasing our energy resiliency, to making walking, biking and transit more inviting, improving our public health, and avoiding the bankrupting economic costs of sprawl.

However, my favorite way of thinking about density is by looking at people. Putting more people together in beautifully designed neighborhoods and places, supports everything that makes us human, from creativity, tolerance, and happiness—to even sexiness!

Last weekend, while running errands in my downtown neighborhood, surrounded by my fellow Vancouverites, I was inspired to tweet this thought:

“Great cities are a place to revel in a shared civic life. It’s the people, the mixed & concentrated “we” that I love so much about cities!”

The great urban observer William H. Whyte taught us that nothing attracts people to cities and places more than other people. And one of the most memorable things Copenhagen’s Jan Gehl ever told me, was that you can double the density of people in a public place by doubling the number of people who seek it out, or by doubling the length of time they stay. Great places are both initially attractive, and “sticky” once you get there. A place, or a community or city for that matter, is sticky if people love it, and don’t want to leave.

But if density supports a stronger civic life, is that the same thing as being neighborly? Proximity and great design may draw you to public places, intriguing crowds and people watching, but it doesn’t mean you choose to knock on the doors of your neighbors. This might be because much of civic life can still be anonymous, while being neighborly is much more personal.

Neighborliness is a term we’ve used as a mantra in Vancouver design for generations. It’s about doing density in an artful way that can bring people together, but also gives them respite and privacy whenever needed—through avoiding over-building, providing access to nature and courtyards, and even separating our taller towers. There’s an old saying that “good fences make good neighbors”—in high density its more likely that good design makes good neighbors.

Although density doesn’t ensure neighborliness, doing density well makes it easier. When we do density in Vancouver, we stress the quality of people-friendly architecture and public realm in what we call a “city by design”. We agonize over the quality of amenities that make density livable and sociable, like parks, community and cultural places, schools and child-care, and local “third places” such as grocery stores, cafés and pubs. We design an inviting city for walking, biking and transit, not just because these are green and healthy, but because they’re inherently social. We require homes fit for families, as well as provide rental and social housing, for diversity and mix.

All of this fits into a framework and ethic where density is used not to maximize real estate profit, but to achieve outstanding public life, and hopefully neighborliness, with successful, authentic place-making. Density that works because people love it.

To be sure, there are a lot of bad examples of density out there. Sites that are overbuilt, disconnected from context or place, without design, mix, amenities and respite. People don’t love this kind of density, and the fear of bad density tends to lead to controversy and less community acceptance of densification in general.

But when you do density with a people focus, in a neighborly way, something magical can happen. People can become more than the sum of their numbers, with vibrancy, creativity, and real human connection—what I love best about the mixed and concentrated ‘we.’

Hang out with your neighbors on the last Saturday of April (a day we’re calling “Neighborday”). Click here to say you’ll Do It, and we’ll send you GOOD’s Neighborday Survival Guide and a bunch of other fun stuff.

Brent Toderian is an international urbanism consultant with TODERIAN UrbanWORKS, Vancouver Canada’s former Chief Planner, and the founding President of the Council for Canadian Urbanism. Follow him on twitter @BrentToderian.

original image (cc) flickr user mikecogh

Our Vision

Our Vision

Apr 01

How close to ‘our’ vision is ‘this’ vision below, which is from The Hostel in the Forest, www.foresthostel.com
If you are part of this Cville Ecovillage, be it at 480 Rio or another ‘local’ property. How would you want to change this Vision?
I expect we will have a well defined non profit mission under the umbrella of VirginiaOrganizing.org
There are many categories we could come under or help support, perhaps especially this: http://virginiaorganizing.org/content/environmental-justice-overview

BTW Lainie Gratz the amazingly talented lady who created this/our NEW version of GreaterStonehenge is at this ForestHostel right now. We are excited to hear and learn what she has to share/teach us … and hear stories about her experience … feelings and needs (met or not)… !

Their “Our Vision”

The world would be a much healthier and better place if all its inhabitants advocated sustainability instead of unlimited growth. Rather than trying to control nature and use it as a resource for development, we should revere it, respect it, and work with it. The Hostel in the Forest is taking steps to manifest this vision. We see that nature’s creatures, including humans, animals, birds and insects share the same land in a unique manner. Inspired by the creativity found in the natural environment, we have transformed our ideas into actions by having an organic vegetable garden used in our dinners each night, recycling our wastes, having a cutting-edge gray-water system, watering plants with a solar powered irrigation system, and using a worm box that composts our table scraps into fertilizer for the garden. Hostel members sleep in tree houses, hike the T-trails through the 133 acre forest, swim and paddle canoes in the lake, take part in the healing process of walking our labyrinth, participate in the sweat lodges held on the nights of the full moon, eat a healthy vegetarian or vegan meal each night, and attend the many educational retreats and lectures designed to teach us how to move toward a wholesome and more sustainable future. We invite you to visit us and be a part of our work in progress; even participate in helping us with our projects, if you so desire. If you are financially able to do so, we would also be most appreciative of any gifts to our 501 C 3 tax-deductible organization in order to encourage and further our goals.

Public Meeting Invitation

Public Meeting Invitation

Mar 16

You are invited to our second public meeting of Cville’s 1st Ecovillage Monday night we plan to open with an (our?) intention, which is well stated in the Charter for Compassion, which will be shown (2 mins). Douglas will offer a brief review of our first meeting, followed by project background and history, up to current status. The target property is 480 Rio Road on the City/County line and we will present purchase cost projections and funding needs. Fred will present a more comprehensive look at the bee hive building design, which can be viewed at www.GreaterStonehenge.org and review rough costs to own or rent. We plan to do some sociograms, which will allow us to get to know each other better and for all of us to see, where we are in relation to the project, as well as in relation to each other. We hope to add to our growing core group of five and reach 10 to 15, which will allow us to move forward. We will be tapping into the collective genius of those who attend … I hope you’ll be part of this gathering, share some of your knowledge, enjoy connecting with others and learn something too. Details in flyer above. If you come early, you can to meet, greet, mingle and start to build our community … REQUEST Would you be willing to? if you can come, invite a friend to join you. if you can’t come, please let your peeps know about the meeting … forward this email … Thank you! Douglas “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there …” MJ Rumi

Video of Master Site Plan and Unit Design

Video of Master Site Plan and Unit Design

Aug 28

Video by Fred Oesch (22:55).

Overview of site and rationale for the presented development plan.

http://youtu.be/YcjFjjYv0uo

Please comment, remember this is a Word Press site and we’d love to have your voice in this conversation! Thank you


About tonight!

About tonight!

Apr 09
You are invited
to our second public meeting of
Cville’s 1st Ecovillage

Tonight, Monday night we plan to open with an (our?) intention, which is well stated in the Charter for Compassion, which will be shown (2 mins).
Douglas will offer a brief review of our first meeting, followed by project background and history, up to current status. The target property is 480 Rio Road on the City/County line and we will present purchase cost projections and funding needs.

Fred will present a more comprehensive look at the bee hive building design, which can be viewed at www.GreaterStonehenge.org and review rough costs to own or rent.
We plan to do some sociograms, which will allow us to get to know each other better and for all of us to see, where we are in relation to the project, as well as in relation to each other.

We hope to add to our growing core group of five and reach 10 to 15, which will allow us to move forward.
We will be tapping into the collective genius of those who attend …
I hope you’ll be part of this gathering, share some of your knowledge, enjoy connecting with others and learn something too.

If you come early, you can to meet, greet, mingle and start to build our community …

REQUEST
Would you be willing to?

  • if you can come, invite a friend to join you.
  • if you can’t come, please let your peeps know about the meeting … forward this email …

    Thank you!
    Douglas

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there …”
MJ Rumi