Creating Small-Scale Community in a Large-Scale World
by Ross Chapin, architect
Pocket neighborhoods are clustered groups of neighboring houses or apartments gathered around some sort of shared open space ó a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley ó all of which have a clear sense of territory and shared stewardship. They can be in urban, suburban or rural areas.
These are settings where nearby neighbors can easily know one another, where empty nesters and single householders with far-flung families can find friendship or a helping hand nearby, and where children can have shirttail aunties and uncles just beyond their front gate.
A pocket neighborhood is not the wider neighborhood of several hundred households and network of streets, but a realm of a dozen or so neighbors who interact on a daily basis around a shared garden, quiet street or alley ó a kind of secluded neighborhood within a neighborhood.
In a pocket neighborhood, neighbors have a shared stake in the common ground they live next to. Because of their watchfulness, strangers are taken note of and children are free to play. Neighbors are on a first-name basis: "Tom and Melissa live across the way." These are the first ones to call on in an emergency, and the closest to join you for an impromptu order of takeout pizza.