We believe that the fundamental unit of consideration for the built environment is the neighborhood.
The neighborhood is the first level of organization that occurs when a collection of buildings, uses and people is considered. The neighborhood is, then, the building block that assembles the city.
Through the 20th Century cities were considered, regulated and modeled as giant single entities. The engineering mentality prevailed as technological solutions favored the ever larger, ever unified. Planning sought to reduce cities to a few multi colored blobs on a map
What was lost was the neighborhood. The neighborhood as a first focal point beyond the scale of the household, was replaced with a regional scale in which people traveled across various neighborhoods to acquire goods and services, often from strangers.
Yet every individual, every family, every business occurs in a neighborhood, a locally identifiable geography that embodies the familiar, the walkable, the interactive. Each person maintains an unconcious map of their neighborhood, whatever that neighborhood may be. Each person knows when they leave their neighborhood and when they return. Each person knows whether they can get the goods and services they need in their neighborhood or whether they must go to another neighborhood to do so.
Thus each person knows whether their neighborhood is functional or simply geographic.
Our contention is that all neighborhoods should be functional, all neighborhoods should serve people, residents, businesses to the fullest degree possible on a local, familiar and defensible scale. Not just for housing , but for some portion of the needs that exist beyond housing: work, goods, meals, entertainment, social engagement, third places.
The importance of this is comfort, security and durability. The benefit is memorability, longevity and history.
A neighborhood, whether a quiet collection of blocks in a small town or a busy confluence of streets in Manhattan, can be the place in which we anchor our lives and construct our larger community.
The loss of neighborhood largely defeated this possibility. The recapturing of neighborhood that is sweeping the country is the result of a collective memory and a collective intention to re-establish place as important and critical to healthy and joyful lives.