Re: footpath width vs gathering node
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Mon, 19 Jun 95 14:49 CDT
John asked:
>I'd be interested to know some of your "scientific" reasons for building
>community this way. My experience leads me to think that it would actually
>weaken the community by weakening the communal space. An 8' wide footpath has
>a private feel to it.

I would think, rather than the width of path being important, having 
places to sit and gather, in view from homes would be much more 
important.  Whether the path is 6 foot wide, 12 foot wide or whatever I 
do not see what effect that has.  The key element is creating 
opportunities for people to gently collide with each other,  as well as 
gathering places, which invite people to come OUT of their homes. 
People who pass each other on a path, no matter how large or small are 
going to connect, if they are interested in doing so.   The key, at 
least as I understand Gehl's work, and as it has been translated into 
cohousing according to Chuck Durret, is that the inside - outside 
interaction is the key.

Example:  This weekend I looked out my window and saw a neighbor who 
was sitting on the bench at our only gathering node.  I wanted to talk 
with her so I came out of my house.  She had come and sat at the bench 
in order to be social and we had a nice chat.  The key element in this 
transaction is that the house view goes into the gathering node and the 
gathering node is an attractive place to go and sit.

Chuck Durretts idea is that the more effortlessly it is to connect 
visually with people outside, the more likely that is to occur.  If you 
have to go out your door and walk out the sidewalk ten feet to see if 
anyone is about, it is much less likely to occur than if you all you 
have to do is look out a window.

So I would be interested in comments about gathering nodes.  What makes 
them attractive?  What ways can people be drawn out of their houses 
into the social public realm?  For me, I am not sure the width of the 
sidewalk makes all that much difference in why people would come out of 
their house - the key at least as I understand it would be the ablility 
to see who is out there and encouraging them to linger.

Rob Sandelin

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