We’ve spent a lot more time in the city this year and I have been watching the role short fences play.
Our corner lot has a short fence around our ground level deck at the front, and along the length of our backyard. We have discovered our short fence plays the role of being an invitation rather than a barrier.
Since the snow has melted we have had many discussions over the fence. We have met new neighbours and visited with ones we have known for years. We’ve talked about dogs and kids, vacations and music, yoga and knitting. We’ve heard of neighbours moving, summer construction projects, and visits to the Saturday Market.
The short fence creates an opportunity to be neighbourly. It lets neighbours talk. It creates community.
The whole experience has left me thinking a lot about neighbourhood design, building styles, and how they affect the general well being of a community. It is a well known fact that when neighbours know neighbours that it builds strong, healthy communities. People watch out for one another and communities are safer.
We live in a neighbourhood from a different era. Houses range in age from 110 years old to brand new infill housing, but it is still the old fashioned layout of big yards, boulevards and mostly detached garages. The layout of the older properties means that neighbours have the opportunity to interact. We see each other clipping hedge, mowing the lawn, building decks, pulling weeds and shoveling snow. High maintainance yards make for lots of opportunity to see your neighbours out and about.
However the few new infill houses, even though they are in the same neighbourhood, function differently, especially the ones that have attached garages. These are “new suburban houses” houses built in an old neighbourhood; attached garages, swaths of concrete driveway, a “low maintainance” garden (token shrub and mulch), and the compulsory prison like fences. The car disappears into the garage, with the neighbour never to be seen until the car emerges again. I can’t help but think of how damaging this design model is for a community. These styles of homes don’t allow for neighbourly interaction and fragment a community.
My short fence has left me appreciating how neighbourhoods were built in the past. They were built to create community. They were built so that neighbours would know their neighbours. Perhaps it is time for city planners to rethink how they are building current neighbourhoods. We need to bring back the front porch, bring back the low fence and eliminate the attached garage. It is time to take the streets our houses are built on and turn them back into communities.
My thoughts inspired by my short fence.