Way back in January, I wrote about “pocket neighborhoods,” which basically are little clusters of homes squeezed into the underused nooks and crannies of housing developments. The idea is to better use space, make more walkable communities, strengthen community bonds, etc.
Then, last month, Planetizen offered a more in-depth look at the concept. The article offers this explanation of the form and objective of a pocket neighborhood:
Essentially, pocket neighborhoods are small groups of houses or apartments gathered around a shared open space. They might take the form of a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley. These clusters form at a sub-block scale in a semi-private zone of ownership. Think of them as a neighborhood within a neighborhood.
The key idea is that a relatively small number of nearby neighbors share and care for a common space together.
At its core, this is not about aesthetics or style; it’s about design that cultivates healthy neighborly connections.
If that’s hard to visualize in the real world, just click over to the article to see a whole bunch of pictures of the idea in action.
The article then goes on to lay out some fundamental features and what they’re designed to do. Pocket neighborhoods, for example, aim to bring neighbors into greater connection with each other via a gradient of public-private spaces. In other words, it’s not all about simply having private space inside the home or backyard and public space outside.
Pocket neighborhoods also aim to “corral” the car, the article states, and mentions that a garage door shouldn’t dominate a house. And because pocket neighborhood homes are almost inherently more dense and tightly packed, they also aim to balance privacy:
Having a next-door house or apartment peering into your own can be uncomfortable and claustrophobic. Therefore, design residences with an open side and a closed side so that neighboring homes ‘nest’ together — with no window peering into a neighbor’s living space. The south side of this cottage below opens to its side yard, while the north side of the next house has skylights for daylight, but no windows looking back.
As I mentioned in my first post on pocket neighborhoods, this concept shows a lot of promise for a place like Provo that already has walkable central communities as well as acres upon acres of wasted space. There are certainly other ways to better utilize that space, but pocket neighborhoods would be a concession to a culture that continues to celebrate the detached, single family home. Pocket neighborhoods also offer a much-needed way to increase residential density without building skyscrapers.