Ferncliff work crew

Conscious Design of Communities Makes for Happier People

Writing in Yes! Magazine in 2013, Jay Walljasper argued that “The way we design our communities plays a huge role in how we experience our lives.” His article, “How to Design Our Neighborhoods for Happiness,” examined some ways conscious design of communities can influence the quality of life of residents.

One example he gave is the simple sidewalk. Without it, people don’t walk as much. New Urbanism, Walljasper explained, is an architectural movement that creates communities with maximum “opportunities for social exchange: public plazas, front porches, corner stores, coffee shops, neighborhood schools, narrow streets, and, yes, sidewalks.” And he described a book that explored this idea of conscious design even further: Seattle-area architect Ross Chapin’s Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating a Small-Scale Community in a Large-Scale World. In his book, Walljasper wrote, Chapin urged designers to group homes in clusters of four to twelve to foster “meaningful ‘neighborly’ relationships.”

For years now, Housing Resources Bainbridge has been practicing the principles of New Urbanism and some of the conscious design ideas described by Chapin. Just look at HRB’s Ferncliff Village as an example. Shared garden space, shared play space, a public trail to downtown, an emergency preparedness program, a covered bus stop where neighbors gather to talk, and regular work parties to bring neighbors together in the work of maintaining the community are some of the features of Ferncliff Village that keep people active and in contact with one another.