We live in a very mobile society. International travel for education and leisure is now commonplace. Travel, whether spur-of-the-moment short duration trips or well-planned group or individual extended excursions are becoming the norm for families and friends. People seem to gravitate, through curiosity and inquisitiveness, to the pursuit of new experiences. For many, the acquisition of these experiences is far more satisfying than being the beneficiary of gifts and material goods.
I believe that folks have many “a-ha” moments during their travels. I think that more and more people are developing an understanding and appreciation of the role that art, architecture, urban design and public space play in illuminating cultural connections and inspiring our lives.
The foremost architect / architectural theorist / urban planner, Leon Krier, is a champion of the European city and village as a model for community building. He has been quoted as stating, “The architecture of the city and public space is a matter of common concern to the same degree as laws and language. They are the foundation of civility and civilization”.
Usually, in a suburban context, the public realm is not surrounded and framed by interesting, modern or historic architecture. The suburban public realm can, however, be as diverse – albeit, more spacious and interwoven throughout the built elements of the community. It is visually and experientially evident and it is critical to defining a sense-of-place that distinguishes a community.
When you shop for that perfect place for your residence – be cognizant and alert to the natural character and spirit of the place as much as you are focused on the features and appointments of the home itself.
Of course, individual recreational parks, pocket-parks and trailheads, community social buildings and amenities are the anchors for the suburban public realm, in most master-planned communities. But in a more grand manner, the public realm of the community is displayed in its open space – its vistas and view corridors – its setting and backdrop – its natural complexion and its conservation of sensitive lands. Neighborhood sidewalks, paths, trails, bike lanes, fields and fairways, lakes and waterways and even the manner in which the streets and roads were threaded – all come together to showcase the public realm.
Each community and its collection of neighborhoods is different. Those whose public realm was consciously considered and designed into the fabric of the place are those that beckon and attract the most interest. They are the places that offer true respite – beyond the walls of the house.
Comfort and commons, comradery and community are the key attributes of great neighborhoods. When the public realm of a community is celebrated and cared for – values for everyone are enhanced.
Find the place that serves you the best – one that feels right – not just one that fits your budget. And, when you do find that special place, be a part of its public realm care and stewardship. When you do – you will protect yours and your neighbors values and you will enjoy a more balanced, healthy and happy lifestyle.
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