What does your ideal community look like? How is it organized, and how is community life structured? What values does the community share?
Well, this one is right up my alley. The idea of community, what it takes, how it’s organized and who inhabits it is essentially what I do every day, all day, for the last 10 years and will continue to do until I’m taken from this earth. I might even design communities in heaven. We’ll see. But first, let’s define “community”.
According to my good friend Webster, community is:
- the people with common interests living in a particular area
- an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location
- a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society
- a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests
Now, what all of these definitions have in common is people being grouped together in common interest. Without people, there is no community, just a collection of well-designed and organized (hopefully) buildings. And on the flip side of this is, without this collection of well-designed and organized buildings the people are just standing around in wide open space wondering what to do.
One of my favorite authors on urbanism is Jane Jacobs. In her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities she describes small neighborhoods in successful cities like Boston, Chicago and other urban centers as not being planned from the beginning, but as having grown over time in such a way as determined by need. She speaks out against the New Urbanism movement quite passionately. I tend to agree with her.
So, what does my ideal community look like? How is it organized and who lives there? My ideal community is one that already exists in thousands of cities all over the world. Communities where people care enough to invest in their own backyard are the communities that I love. It doesn’t have to be a big community or a dense urban center that never sleeps. No, even a sleepy little town with one blinking light on Main Street can be a vibrant and alive community of people all working together to make life better. This, to me, is ideal.