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At the crossing of pedestrian ways

A neighborhood square must be located at the central crossing point of a network of interconnected pedestrian routes through the neighborhood. As local residents walk through the square on their way to work, school, shopping, running errands, or to catch transit to the city center, their paths cross, affording the chance for a greeting or extended conversation. When people pass each other on a regular basis in the same place, the “stranger” becomes a “familiar”, and gradually the “familiar” may become a friend, or member of one’s circle.

Alain de Botton, philosopher and author of many wise and entertaining books including “The Architecture of Happiness”, has now produced a video on “What Makes Cities Attractive”. He calls on us all to express our opinions, and to make our city leaders accountable to the citizens, not just to the developers.

For too long, the economic GDP model has governed how we shape our cities, proposes Suzanne Lennard, and this has resulted in sprawl that is unhealthy for humans, and unsustainable for the planet. Today, the idea that the primary function of the city is to be an “economic engine” is driving cities worldwide to construct “vertical sprawl”, which is proving to be equally unhealthy and unsustainable. Suzanne calls for “Quality of Life” principles to guide the way we shape our cities. These are the principles of True Urbanism, that facilitate community social life, access to nature, and independent mobility, and that result in a hospitable, healthy and sustainable built environment.

A neighborhood square must be centrally located at the commercial and civic heart of a neighborhood, with a substantial residential population living within easy walking distance. The vitality of a neighborhood square is heavily dependent on a rich mix of uses in surrounding blocks. Nearby streets should contain apartments and condos, workplaces, schools, services, and shops providing all the necessities of everyday life.

A square’s success is dependent on the subtle interaction of many factors – the right proportions of the architectural frame, appropriate building uses and urban fabric, hospitable streetscaping, a pedestrian-friendly transportation policy, and good management of the square. When any one of these factors is lacking, the square fails to achieve its potential for social life, community and democratic engagement.

52nd IMCL Conference, June 29 – July 3, 2015 on

Designing for Green, Healthy Cities

To facilitate your participation, we have extended the registration deadline to February 20. To register, please click here. And don’t forget, if you become an IMCL Member you can register at HALF price.  Read more

Festivity and celebration are essential to human life.  They are an organizing and unifying force in the social life of the neighborhood. At traditional community festivals on a neighborhood square, friends and strangers, old and young work, eat, talk, dance and sing with one another.  Divisiveness and conflict are set aside; age and social barriers are diminished.

We are delighted to hear that our friend and IMCL Board Member Dick Jackson is to be awarded the 2015 Henry Hope Reed Award for his work outside the field of architecture that has supported the traditional city. Please see Dick’s message below.

The multi-functional neighborhood square acts as a catalyst for participatory, representational government. Civic and political discussion among diverse users of the square involves the expression of far greater diversity of opinions than is heard within the private realm. The power of the community to organize and act as a body to protect the common good is immensely strengthened by the availability of a successful neighborhood square at its heart.

Neighborhood squares tend to promote ethical conduct, attitudes and relations. A place that belongs to the community as a whole cannot be made exclusionary. It must be welcoming and hospitable for all socio-economic, ethnic and age groups and designed to enhance their co-presence and mutual respect. Inequities of access and opportunity for use that prevail for most private indoor space are minimized on the square.

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