What exactly does the word neighbourhood define? Definitely, it is an area with physical boundaries, but much more is to it than just the build environment. A neighbourhood can be defined as an area that is bounded by social community values. When we talk about inclusive communities, we basically consider a community with diversity. They offer each of their members to meet the basic needs in terms of social and physical accessibilities and many more.
Inclusive communities are welcoming to a diverse group of people, including, but not limited to, seniors, youth, children, aboriginal people, immigrants and newcomers, persons with disabilities, people experiencing mental health challenges, and low-income population (Inclusive communities n.d.).
What forms these inclusive neighbourhoods? What can architects do to make it create them?
Definitely, architects, planners and designers do play an important role in determining the quality and feel of the space. They also focus on addressing the sensitivity of social, environmental and economic factors of the space, and planning them out collectively for a better living environment. These factors eventually define the overall inclusiveness and social quality of the same. Hence it becomes important to consider various tangible as well as intangible factors to be considered while designing, especially while designing semi-public and public zones, as they tend to collectively impact a group of people and communities on a daily basis.
One of the factors supporting this lifestyle is the social connections of the neighbourhood. We, humans, are social creatures making it important for us to have socialisation and civil life connections on a daily basis. For an individual to have a sense of belonging towards the space in which he lives, not only affects the environment around him in a positive way but also has a good impact on his personal well-being. This makes it easy to form a network of support systems for the neighbourhood.
To achieve this, it’s the architects and planners who need to decide to add the public spaces in their planning, not only restricting them to open spaces, but adding character and purpose to it to make it a social space. It can be achieved by stepping into the end-users shoes and mapping the daily routines. This not only helps to locate the area which needs social space but also helps in determining its functionality.
For example, for a neighbourhood, it is quite ideal to have a marketplace nearby the open green spaces, as it together allows serving as a pause point as well as fulfilling the daily life needs. These pause points end up making connections forming nodes in the neighbourhoods.
The next major factor to consider for the inclusive neighbourhood is the diversity in the age group. This includes groups starting from children to seniors. Hence, it is necessary to design a neighbourhood fulfilling the infrastructural needs of children and elderly people. As discussed in the previous point, the open spaces act as social spaces. For them to be successful it becomes necessary for them to be accessible. Such places allow elderly people to stay active and connected. It also gives a chance for them to volunteer in small community activities, helping them to form bonds and connections.
In a very similar manner, the child focusing environments are also to be introduced in the neighbourhoods by the architects and planners. This has a range of spaces, from small scale spaces appropriate to their proportions to huge playgrounds and fields. The fields also act as a multifunctional area for the neighbourhood to utilise. The infrastructure designed must be over the guidelines of universal accessibility as well as visual accessibility and connectivity. This helps in creating safe and secure environments.
The most basic yet important thread to bind the neighbourhood is through public involvement. It is an architect’s and planner’s job to create such opportunities through design and creating engaging activities. One of the ways to do so is to create sufficient green spaces.
Green spaces allow activities such as box gardening and urban farming. These activities help in connecting the neighbourhoods as well as help in creating a sense of belonging towards it. These connections eventually help in creating neighbourhoods with a natural surveillance system, where people create a support and function system in their daily living.
What to design, When to Create, and finally How to Design
- Incorporate the open, green, public spaces in design, promoting social interaction.
- Design for everyone: Let the needs of age groups be fulfilled. Plan out and design for community/ gathering spaces.
- Map the area, understand the needs, and determine the right type of functionality.
- Contextual and proportionate spaces, making it easy for the end-users to connect to.
- Safe spaces: Let it be visually as well as physically accessible ones
- Neighbourhood infrastructure with opportunities for active participation and volunteering. Also allowing further business opportunities at times.