the neighborhood is not a place, but a state of mind.
The joy of having neighbors
Living happily with our neighbors is often a challenge. The space we need to live our lives, but also the way we relate to it, to keep safe the intimacy and familiarity we need to function normally, are aspects depending on whether having neighbors is or not a blessing to us. However, if we could see the benefits in this type of relationship, we would realize that we have more to give and that everything is so easy when we can rely on the support of the community we belong to. When we develop fruitful relationships with those around us, we have the chance to build a more sustainable, resilient community with healthier and happier people.
Who are our neighbors and why they are important
Most of the time, what is outside us, in any form, is, on a small scale, inside us. It is said that we have certain events and feelings in our lives, just to evolve and change those chapters that we do not excel at. Do we have neighbors we don’t like? They reflect certain aspects of life with ourselves that we still have to work with.
In other words, our neighbors are other people, living beings, someone like us, but different. The people around us. They are not abstract design concepts or generic urban phenomena. In the simplest sense, the neighbor is the person who lives next to us, and in the broadest sense, they can mean the whole of humanity. This is because the neighborhood means a relationship, and the human environment is built on relationships: between people and nature, between people and space and between people and other people. The latter has helped us, over time, to survive, to collaborate, and to cooperate with each other, making exchanges, relying on each other and prospering, gaining a better quality of life, without actually pursuing it.
Neighbors are the first people we can call when we have a need, but also in case of emergency, especially if the other people close to us, relatives or friends, are not in our vicinity. In other words, they give us tan immediate sense of security where the walls of our house or the fences of our yard end.
Neighborhood makes people stay close to each other
With the help of the people around us, we are able to access those mutual benefits of the symbiotic relationships created in the society in which we live. If we refer to the rapidly urbanizing and densifying world, as this process progresses, the benefits that can explain the attractiveness of a dense urban environment are: physical proximity, common resources and common identities.
By physical proximity we mean all that close relationships with people and places which can facilitate our access to people and spaces, with the help of which we can procure what we need, for a normal course of our existence: from jobs and related communities, shopping malls and traders, schools and teachers, services and service providers and more. Basically, proximity becomes possible in the urban context by capitalizing on the common resources enjoyed by those who live, work or carry out their activity and share these spaces with each other. This advantage of being close to the places of interest translates into time gained, and later into satisfaction with the natural course of things and the well-being that they inspire in us. Finally, common identities refer to the feeling of belonging to the place where people grow and develop, manifesting that pride in their own local urban community.
Neighborhoods, the easiest way to access what society has to offer
Being a neighbor is not always easy: we have different values, behaviors, and visions that can get in the way. The benefits of living together can easily turn into problems, especially when surplus becomes waste, energy becomes pollution, mobility becomes congestion, collaboration becomes exploitation and coexistence becomes conflict. Despite all the disadvantages of living in the city – congested traffic, low air quality, continuous hum and noises that make up urban music – people choose to stay here, thanks to the ever-widening range of human resources. As density increases, infrastructure costs per capita decrease. In addition, more and more people are becoming customers and consumers, supporting a diverse range of thriving cultural and commercial activities. Access to all these benefits makes up for the shortcomings of crowded and congested urban life.
How cities can bring the idea of neighborhood to the center of neighborhoods
By designing identifiable common areas that encourage socialization between neighbors, we can contribute to the development of stronger relationships with our neighbors by learning to live in harmony with them. Moreover, if we learn to see the potential of the unexpected opportunities of dense and diverse urban environments, then we will be able to really enjoy these spaces of spontaneous, arbitrary encounters. With the gift of unpredictability that delights and fascinates, ever-changing people can learn to appreciate these opportunities to get to know the good sides and the opportunities of being good neighbors.
In terms of the built environment, it is essential to understand how we can bring opportunities to provide comfort and connection with other people in the middle of neighborhoods and residential complexes, thus embracing the concept of neighborhood. By trying as much as possible to eliminate the unpleasant challenges of this dynamic, people can get off to a good start in bringing together those activities that make it possible to live a quiet, effortless life. As long as we bring people together, creating opportunities for them to interact and build strong relationships close to private living spaces, the neighborhood has a chance to become a state of mind.
h4l pays special attention to the community it brings to the heart of the built neighborhoods, emphasizing the strengthening of a community with which it shares the same values: liveliness, closeness to nature, sustainability as a lifestyle, well-designed housing for the well-being and health of the inhabitants, but also for forging close relationships within their community.
- Soft City, David Sim