I guess I have been a student of houses and neighborhoods since I was a kid. Growing up in a small blue collar town outside of Pittsburgh, PA in the 70’s and 80’s, life was uncomplicated enough that my neighborhood was my life. No scheduled playdates or lessons to shuttle back and forth to. I woke up, got dressed and wandered outside to see what was going on, or what I could make happen.
I could visit neighbors whenever I felt like it. They taught me things. How to make a perfect pie crust. How to crochet and do algebra. How to host a dinner party. How to keep score in baseball while listening to the Pirates on the transistor radio on the front porch.
It wasn’t hard. Our houses were so close together, if you and your neighbor opened the side door at the same time, they banged into each other. Everyone had a front porch. Most people had a back porch. No one had a fence.
There weren’t a lot of kids. There were a lot of old people. This is really what made it rich for me in hindsight.
Luckily, the other kid my age on my block was as creative as I, if not more so. We were always creating something. Puppet shows and plays, staging weddings for the younger kids in the neighborhood who we thought should be married. Writing and selling neighborhood newspapers. Sno-cone stands and other sales.
We relied on our older neighbors to support our endeavors. We would go from porch to porch, knocking on doors asking if they wanted to buy a ticket to our play or buy a paper. They always obliged. We felt like we could do anything we set out to do.
Some of them were as sweet as fudge. Some were quiet and didn’t talk much. Some just joked around with us all the time. Some were quite stern and never cracked a smile. Some only liked me but would chase the other kids off of her lawn. Some seemed so polished and somewhat cosmopolitan and spoke german and always wore high heels.
But they all made the neighborhood so rich for a kid. Rich with different personalities. Different opinions. Different hobbies and skills.
I look back and see how lucky I was. What a big influence they each had on who I am today. I want the same for my children and for everyone elses children.
Our home and our neighborhood touches every part of our lives. It helps create who you are. And having a rich tapestry of people and allowing ourselves to know them makes for a richer experience.
As architects, planners, developers, politicians, community activists and involved individuals, how we create our cities, towns, neighborhoods and homes impacts every part of our lives….Especially our health, our relationships.
Through this blog, I will be taking a holistic view of home and community. I hope you will find it interesting and look at your habitat in a new way as a result.