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Building Community Through Design

Public Square a CNU Journal shared a recent article that illustrates 10 reasons to build community through design. Are cities designed to bring us apart or closer? Interesting question to address. According to experts, when urban spaces have great public spaces and neighbourhoods it brings people together.

“We build cities that bring us together or push us apart. "Gated communities" are an obvious example of building to isolate, but other methods are also common. Streets that are too wide, with fast moving traffic, divide us. So do zoning codes that separate uses and housing types. Berms, buffers, setbacks, limited-access highways, and massive parking lots, when used routinely, put barriers and distance between people.”

But let’s revise 10 reasons why it is important to design and build cities that support communities

  1. Freedom and choice in mobility: “When you live in a walkable neighborhood, you can still drive if you want to. But you can also walk, ride a bike, hop on a bus or train, and often take car-share or bike-share.”

  2. Support social interaction: cities that build strong communities can support social interaction, factor that can be determinant to reduce loneliness and social deprivation

  3. Great Public Places: “There is nothing like great public places to bring people together, but activating such spaces requires people living and working in proximity—it requires the neighborhood model”.

  4. Healthy Lifestyle Opportunities: Places that are designed to be walkable implicitly support healthier lifestyles for people.

  5. Reduce cost of living: “The average car costs more than $9,000 a year. When you live in a walkable city, you drive significantly less or may even live without a car. Transportation costs are significantly reduced, which cuts combined housing and transportation (H+T) expenses”.

  6. Environment protection Transit oriented neighborhoods can reduce carbon emissions. “Every trip on foot or on a bike burns fat instead of gas, keeping us healthier and the air cleaner. Also, when we spend time outdoors we get acclimated to the local environment so that when we return indoors we may be able to throw the windows open and leave the air conditioner off”.

  7. Long lasting value and build the tax base “Joe Minicozzi of Urban 3 has documented the productivity of American development patterns—and the most productive parts are mixed-use downtowns and neighborhoods. He has modeled scores of US cities and the data is clear: Single-use development has lower financial productivity”.

  8. Reduce infrastructure expenses: When cities are designed to be compactable and walkable you can diminish a lot of unproductive liabilities and reduce the construction of inefficient infrastructure.

  9. Reduce traffic deaths: “When cities and towns are designed for separation, inevitably the thoroughfares are built for faster moving traffic. People have to drive farther, at higher speeds—multiplying risk for everybody on the roads, including those who must walk in difficult conditions. This costs lives.”

  10. Make community unique: “When you build and revitalize mixed-use main streets and focus on placemaking, the unique qualities of community are enhanced. That gives people a reason to go to a community, experience something different, and invest.”

At MKThink we are also working on projects that involve urban design and planning through a process of community integration. We run community-based workshops where we prototype designs and/or play games that elicit creative ideas from people young and old. We believe that cities should uplift and connect us all, and we love working on projects that bring that dream a bit closer to reality.

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