Archive for September, 2008

September 21, 2008

The importance of front porches

I live in a neighbourhood where houses are either 12.5 feet wide, or the bigger ones are 16 feet wide.  It means we sit on top of each other. Literally. Taking your recycling out or having a drink on the porch means invariably being drawn into a conversation with someone else who has had a similar idea.

Because of this level of street activity, some folks spend entire seasons on their front porch. And those are the people whom we all get to know, the people that pull us out of our self-absorbed musings to remind us that the first of the month has arrived and so cars must be moved for parking authorities or that recyclables, rather than garbage, will be collected the next day. They become the glue to our community, exchanging tidbits about our lives to others so that by the time we meet, we already know something of each other.

The porch sitters serve the same function that small children or dogs do. They give us a reason to talk to each other, to build bridges between us, to visit for a moment or two.

These casual interactions are shaped by the architecture of the places where we live and how we move through our communities. It speaks to a number of design issues: the scale of our homes, the use of “third place” (not home, not work), the development of weak social bonds, the trust we have in each other (collective efficacy). The social networks which exist in our neighbourhoods are entwined with the structures of our neighbourhoods.

This blog will explore all these dynamics and how we can build places where we belong, one and all.

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