What Makes a Good Neighbourhood?
Frustration of being cooped up is a part of being human. Getting rid of frustration is often a problem in itself, we are busy and too pressed for time. And going to the gym to blow out the cobwebs isn’t the best option in these social spacing days.
Using the neighbourhood where you live is probably the most important discovery you can make.
Going out for a walk, and finding out about your neighbourhood is probably one of the best things a person can do to elevate the mind into a useful state.
Minimalist States of Mind
The minimalists would have us believe that by stripping down our homes and neighbourhoods to the bare essentials creates a stress-free zone. A place to live without distraction.
The fact is, in this world of bright and shiny distractions we need to find things that offer meaningful experiences.
We design the interiors of our homes according to taste and wallet — normally ending up with something that offers the essential amenities of cooking space, living space — reading, TV, conversations and dining with companions. Pets add life to a home, an opportunity to interact with an animal that lives by its own rules can be entertaining. It takes our mind away from selfish thoughts.
Bathrooms and cosy corners to visit when we need the comfort of simple feelings of security — the cat under the bed, you on the can reading Anton Chekhov or Stephen King, is entertaining and relaxing.
Outside on the street we expect similar circumstances.
If a street is staid and bare, with office buildings that rise up to dwarf human beings, then we immediately feel out of place. We can’t change it, and it causes us to feel uncomfortable in our own neighbourhood.
Humans are Naturally Curious Creatures
Humans love variety, not minimalism. Studies in London have shown that people feel better all of the time when they live in a neighbourhood that has a row of shops that offers useful products to enhance your home. Food, furniture, pet stores, through to shops that offer cultural products such as artisan, and fine art products help to create a feel good factor in people.
How often have you seen a shop close down, then replaced by a mobile phone shop — then how many groans did you hear from neighbours?
“I thought it would become a baker, or a book shop!”
Anti-Neighbourhoods that put Business First
Buildings that rise up into the sky, darkened windows, security personnel at the door create an atmosphere of fear and not belonging.
There’s been a tendency to put the building before the people in recent years.
Buildings as symbols of power and might that dominate the town centre disregard the needs of humans who have to live in the area. People need the feeling that they have the right, and an invitation to explore their neighbourhoods.
A Home from Home for All of Us
Walking around the neighbourhood should feel a little like home, except it’s bigger and more adventurous.
Designs that Please Human Souls
The way a street is designed is of paramount importance to the locals, the people who live there.
Short, Squat, and give it interesting Corners, Please
If a street has short blocks of squat buildings, a variety of shops that are useful to the local people, then it will offer them opportunities to make choices about what they do when they go for a walk — there has been a drive towards building communities based on controlling foot traffic.
Keep people walking along a street, make sure they encounter not corners to go off and explore, but shop doorways that lead into large department stores and shopping malls.
Train Stations Married to Shopping Malls
Train stations can easily be mistaken for shopping centres these days, and finding your way out after a long journey is frustrating. All of it about the vendor, non of it about the local residents.
Exploration and Intriguing Roads to Explore
People need exploration to stay healthy. We are curious creatures, and just like cats we can be intrigued by the sight of a long street with green objects blowing about in the wind at the end of it.
The feeling it evokes is one of the need to walk and move towards the objects and discover what they mean. Even when we discover that we have seen a tree, we tend to spend time investigating it, talking about it to anybody who might listen.
Trees and Space that make City Streets colourful
Trees are important in cities. They offer cover and shade that reminds our deeper self of the evolutions of time, how the human race once relied solely on nature for protection from the elements and enemies. We need trees and foliage for security and peace of mind.
Trees offer variations of shape and forms, small and large. Colours change with the seasons and mostly display concepts of beauty that we can enjoy as the seasons pass. They are pure nature in relief against brick structures — an interesting combination.
Walkability — even for the Ageing
Studies about the walkability of streets conducted by Hieronymus C. Borst, in Deft, Holland, reported about the relationship between street as perceived walkability and the characteristics in a street.
Participants were between 55 and 80 years old. They reported that they felt more relaxed and able to enjoy walking in streets that had trees, patches of grass, restaurants, cafés, low traffic but good public transport, and local shops with variety. Pedestrian crossings also contributed to feelings of easy walking.
The Unwalkable Streets
The contrary was the unwalkable streets which were strewn with litter, high density traffic, and high rise buildings. Participants found these places too unpleasant to spend time walking.
It doesn’t take much to ruin a neighbourhood. It takes thoughtfulness and will to create and keep a neighbourhood liveable and walkable.
A street with low buildings, rows of small shops offering useful wares, and trees that mark the sides of the street help us navigate and interact in a meaningful way that enhances healthy thinking.
Out of the Home into Explorer Mode
When we leave our homes and go out to walk around we should immediately fall into explorer mode. The mind can become intrigued in a street that has different coloured houses with varying patterns on the facades. When we relax and walk, explore and interact mentally with the environment, it is as if we are in an extension of the home — a place that is secure.
Triggered Feelings — that Make us Feel Good
These structures and natural objects create a sense of well-being. When we are outside straying from home and find likeable streets and designs it triggers feelings of intrigue and curiosity. Walking gives us the means to keep moving and keep discovering new things.
Sights, Sounds, Smells, and Gastronomy
Outside exploring your city offers more than seeing things; sight, smell, sound, and touch are always on offer, and if we stop at a place that looks just like home and sit down at the chequered table cloth, we can taste the gastro-delights of our local space.
Interestingly, a badly cooked local meal at a restaurant will repel a person and make them feel as if it doesn’t belong in the neighbourhood. A world cuisine of Italian, Spanish, or Ethiopian food on offer in your locality creates more curiosity and exploration opportunities.
It’s All just around the Corner
It seems that home from home, just around the corner can also include objects and ideas from afar without causing stress and fears. Another mobile phone shop, though, will cause clenched teeth and anger in many residents.
The quality of what we see and feel in our neighbourhoods makes all the difference to how happy we feel about where we live.
We Determine How We Feel at Home
Where we live determines how we feel. We are constantly exposed to whatever our neighbourhood offers us, and therefore it influences our feelings more than most other aspects of life outside.
The more we realize that local communities work better than distanced communities, such as across the internet or across the city, the more we should encourage local living.
If all we need can be in our street, then there is no need to travel to the other side of a city to buy things. Supermarkets know the sales power of opening branches directly in a community — unfortunately, this has led to closing down small family businesses.
Local Vendors and Local Buyers
Local vendors encourage locals to involve themselves in their community by getting to know it better. Staying in the neighbourhood when shopping, when walking for relaxation, and building friendships that are mostly just down the street solves a lot of problems easier than trying to find friends on the other side of town.
People visit the other side of their city socially and out of curiosity, but don’t always go back to those neighbourhoods. Their attachments and desires are always where they live.