We build neighborhoods in two ways: by carefully crafting their parts as intelligent components of a larger whole and by actually crafting physical neighborhoods.
The parts may be buildings, parks, public infrastructure systems and components or any number of other common elements that make neighborhoods and communities. The key is to understand the parts in terms of the larger context.
In this regard we consider each project, each building from the neighborhood view. We see no isolated projects, no projects that do not affect neighbors and none that are not affected by their neighbors. This means we include considerations of economic, social and environmental contexts within the realm of each building. This understanding of the symbiotic relationship between buildings is critical to successful neighborhood making and keeping.
We also design neighborhoods directly. We do this via town plans for agencies, developers and community groups. This may occur in the context of public charrettes and visioning exercises, via direct contract for specific planning exercises and via activism as a means to add vision to otherwise vision-challenged public process.
An important method in neighborhood making is the "design" of policy. By developing codes, design guidelines and by advocating for positive public policy, we can generate substantial effects with a minimum of input by focusing on neighborhood design at the genetic level. This represents some of our most powerful, yet least visible work. It may include direct communication and policy adjustment with public officials, the generation of specific language and policies for use by local agencies in developing general plans, or by external activism in support of community groups and interested individuals.
While neighborhoods are typically considered to be the result of little more than the accumulation of particular buildings and uses, we understand them as reflections of conscious, active and ongoing choices made by planners, legislators, policy makers, business owners and residents. These choices are reflected in law, codes, policies as well as market level decision making via purchasing choices.
Importantly, neighborhoods are never just accidents. Each place reflects a series of conscious intentions, usually invisible to most users. Our goal in the making of neighborhoods is to daylight the choices that affect neighborhoods such that actual users have a greater influence in the choices made and greater vision of possible outcomes .
This is a key path to durability and stability in neighborhood life, which is a critical subset of genuine sustainability.