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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.

It has long been recognized that the quality and quantity of social interaction and sense of belonging strongly influence physical and mental health. By facilitating face-to-face interaction and membership in a community, the neighborhood square improves physical and mental health for people of all ages.

Humans are social beings. Contact with family, friends and social circles is not just pleasurable, it is essential. An individual’s very sense of self is shaped and maintained through social life. One of the most serious punishments we can inflict is solitary confinement, which can result in serious existential crisis, and deterioration of mental and physical health. And yet, inadvertently, we are still building too many urban and suburban environments that induce isolation and loneliness.

How do children and youth learn the behavior, the attitudes, the skills that transform them into competent, responsible adults capable of, and interested in participating in the life of their community? A neighborhood square offers them an unparalleled learning environment.

A neighborhood square builds trust and familiarity; this is self-evidently a place for dialogue and discussion, for meetings and greetings, for shared experiences and forming bonds.

To be in the presence of others is reassuring. Perceiving their presence by looking, hearing and touching enables each of us to feel more human, more alive. Being acknowledged with a glance, a smile, even from a stranger, is heartwarming. A neighborhood square is an invitation to all to enjoy the feeling of being part of the extended family, the community.

Every urban neighborhood of 7 – 10,000 souls needs a place that functions as the “heart” of the neighborhood -- a neighborhood square. IMCL believes that now, more than ever, our society needs to strengthen the social networks that a square, more than any other urban form or social organization, has the ability to generate. A well designed neighborhood square generates community, counteracts loneliness, fosters inclusion, socializes children, catalyzes democratic engagement and sparks joy.

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