Re: Creating uncommonly lovely common gardens - urban
From: Bitner/Stevenson (
Date: Sat, 6 Mar 1999 21:57:11 -0600
Your community is almost exactly half the size of ours, which is ~1.3 acres
and 25 households. Although I am not deeply involved with the landscaping,
our projects are similar enough that it might help to hear our experience.
We have three areas, one twice the size of the other two. The large area is
very open and ringed by trees. The kids use this area for playing soccer and
kickball and any other game that needs a large open area. One of the other
areas contains a grassy area next to the playground. The last area is also
open, but has a sandbox and large porch-type swing next to it. The areas
roughly correspond with the age of the kids who like to play there-smallest
in the sandbox, larger in the playground, and older kids into organized
sports in the big open area. Obviously, this is just a general pattern.

Some of us are considering making the larger area more interesting and less
of a soccer field. It's not really used that much, and the openness makes it
relatively unusable in our very hot summers due to no shade. There is a
large park one block away which is better for soccer anyway. If I had half
the space, like you do, I'd probably try to keep one of the areas fairly
open, for playing games(the grown-ups do this too-almost forgot to mention
that), and make the other area more interesting, adding at least one big
bench or porch swing, maybe some berry bushes(good for hiding and foraging
in the summer) and at least one garden area so you can eat stuff you grow.
I'd also have play structures, since having more than one level means more
kids can play in a small area. The sandbox is a neat thing to have-the
little kids play there and often the bigger ones join in. Who can resist wet
sand? It's good to have the "adult" things next to the "small child" things
and to let the other kids play on their own more.

The place with the best nooks and crannies that I have seen is N Street.
They have old trees and formerly separate backyards that each have a
character of their own, while having a meandering path that unifies all of
them. I'm not sure it really applies here, though, since they have more
space than we do. They've got(or had last I saw) chickens, a sauna, a wading
pool made from a rubber raft, swings in trees, a playground and every kind
of garden I can think of. I think the most interesting spaces tend to be
created by individuals with "ownership" of an area, and not by committees;
an idea to consider when figuring out how to landscape an area.
Liz Stevenson
Southside Park Cohousing


> Pinakarri Community is an urban infill project - 12 houses with small
> private north facing (our sunny side) courtyards and c/house on 3000 sq
> metres (32,292 sq feet or 0.74 acre - I reckon). The houses are set out
> in a sort of figure of eight pattern where the crossover is the
> adjoining arcade of the c'hse, creating two outdoor common areas.

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