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By Suzanne H. Crowhurst Lennard

To be successful, a neighborhood square must be designed for people. It must feel like the community’s living room -  lively, safe, comfortable and hospitable. It must facilitate social interaction and foster a sense of community identity. To achieve these goals, enclosure, sunlight and shade, protection from inclement weather, and from noise, danger and pollution are essential factors.

By Suzanne H. Crowhurst Lennard

Size
It is important to decide on the size of the square in relation to two interdependent factors: 1) the social functions and population for which the square is designed; and 2) the height of surrounding buildings.

Every day, there are people who leave their home and feel unsafe in the world. They experience inescapable threats to their lives and livelihood from the system that has been built up around them, forced to move through spaces that feel at best uninviting and at worst mortally dangerous. These people are not abstractions. They are your friends and your neighbors, members of your community, your loved ones.

IMCL is delighted to announce that the 55th IMCL Conference will take place in Ottawa, May 14-18, 2018, with the very active partnership of the City, and will focus on the immensely important theme of Healthy, 10-Minute Neighborhoods.  

Efforts are under way around the world to create healthy neighborhoods where walking, biking and public transit are more attractive, reducing dependence on the car. We all know this is the most important way to assure an active, sustainable future for our grandchildren, and to fight climate change.

By Suzanne H. Crowhurst Lennard

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.

By Taylor Campi

I spent a large portion of my recent 4-day trip to St. Louis, Missouri, in the suburbs west of the city. As is true in the majority of American suburbs, the development and activity in this part of town revolve heavily around the use of cars. I first noticed this on my 6-minute walk from the Metro Link light rail stop to my hotel. The hotel is a massive 8-story rectangular structure that juts noticeably from its rather flat surroundings, and is clearly visible from the light rail stop (photo below). To reach it, however, one must cross under the interstate and through a number of large parking lots.

By Hannah Jarman-Miller

Sunday Parkways was hosted in my neighborhood this past weekend. Organized in partnership by the City of Portland and Kaiser Permanente, Sunday Parkways is a free event where streets are entirely or partially closed to car traffic so that community members can discover and engage in active transportation in a safe and welcoming space. It is an amazing feeling to move through a street where pedestrian safety and mobility is the clear priority. Families with young children learning how to be on a bicycle in the public realm, and not feeling threatened by a vehicular presence.

By Suzanne H. Crowhurst Lennard

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.

By Hannah Jarman-Miller

When you consider your favorite building, what does it look like? What drew you to notice it, and which pieces of its construction stick out in you when you go to describe it to someone else? When we think of the structures that surround us, we might consider it valuable that we have a coffee shop down the street or a grocery store around the corner. However, the aesthetics of our built environment are playing an essential role in guiding the emotional state of our daily life that is just as significant as the functional purposes that these buildings serve. So, why is it important for a building to be beautiful, and from what impetus does our aesthetic variety grow?  

By Suzanne H. Crowhurst Lennard

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.

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