Pocket Neighborhoods have received quite a bit of press since Ross Chapin Architects and The Cottage Company began building their communities in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. These intimate neighborhoods feature groupings of detached cottages and small homes clustered around garden courtyards. As you will read in the book, however, pocket neighborhoods are not just about cute cottages around a courtyard.
In essence, pocket neighborhoods are about nearby neighbors sharing and caring for common ground.
These communities don’t have to be built from scratch, or take much money at all. Section Four in the Pocket Neighborhoods book features a story about two subdivisions where residents have taken down their backyard fences to create a safe play-space for their kids. Another story tells about a suburban cul-de-sac where neighbors regularly take over the street for summer potlucks. In Baltimore and Los Angeles, residents along urban alleys have reclaimed their access lane as a shared commons, complete with BBQs, picnic tables and container gardens. And all over America, nearby neighbors are coming together to plan community gardens in vacant lots and undeveloped street right-of-ways.
New pocket neighborhoods can take the form of clustered homes around a garden in a variety of configurations in small towns or suburban settings. In urban settings, pocket neighborhoods are likely to be attached or stacked apartments opening onto a shared courtyard. This is because the higher value of urban land will force denser development. Cohousing is another form of pocket neighborhood that is becoming more common, but that will be for another blog post.
Style is not what matters; homes could take the form of Craftsman cottages, contemporary sheds, or urban lofts. Nor is location — suburban, urban, small town. It’s all about having a ‘scale of sociability’: nearby neighbors in relation around shared space in ways that foster community while preserving privacy.