Social Places

People are social beings. Most live in groups not in isolation. Sometimes they are born into family groups that become their lifelong identity, but for modern people (as opposed to indigenous people), communities form by chance and proximity. At school it is the kids in your class; at work, it is the people hired in your building. But too often communities do not form, or they form poorly, because of the inherent disconnect of transport-based development patterns. 

When communities do form they sometimes come together in friendships. But they also form for the social pursuits of conviviality, citizenship or artistic, intellectual or spiritual growth, which is different. In these social pursuits, people enjoy each other's company, not for friendship, but for a particular form of social pursuit.

  • Conviviality is often accompanied, or lubricated, by slow food and drink. The cafe or tavern is a frequent facility. It also can be focused around sport - DIY, amateur sport
  • Citizenship is about taking care; volunteering time to help the community work. It can be impromptu conversations on the street, or more formally, in the meeting hall
  • Citizenship is about education of the young, care for the weak & infirm, keeping streets clean & safe water flowing. It is about keeping the peace; passing on the culture
  • Artistic & Intellectual growth is not education of the young. It is a lifelong pursuit of personal development & expression, often clustered to enable co-inspiration
  • Spiritual growth used to be simple, everyone belonged to the same religion worshiping in the same building or place. Today, it is more complex, but the need remains
  • Even in secular communities, people need for a sacred building to celebrate rites of passage, for sanctuary and a place of peace away from the profane noise of daily life

In transport-based development patterns these social places have been replaced by commercial establishments whose prime purpose is to maximize revenue and hopefully profits. There are generations of young adults whose place of social connection in youth was the shopping mall - where the most important rite of passage was gettings their drivers license. Cafes have been replaced with fast-food outlets where food becomes fuel (and not very flavorful or nutritious).

The most successful pattern in social places is the village plaza accessed by car-free streets. Depending on the season and weather, people stop work and come out at a particular time of day or evening when they walk the streets and meet each other - connecting without an appointment.

The optimal size of such communities is about 250-750 people. Studies show that this seems to be about the right size where people work together, care for, nurture and support each other because they live face-to-face. The citizens know each other and are known. Conflict resolution is face-to-face, and when someone falls, someone else picks them up. At that size, communities have a very low tolerance for social predation, for those toxic actions that tear at the fabric of the community.

For lack of a better word, let's call these common localities villages

Three generations meet on the street