Small house living thrives in community setting (Credit: Ross Chapin)
The role of community is critical to making small homes work, yet the idea of neighbourhood context and community building is missing from most discussions about small homes.
Ross Chapin, architect, community planner, and author of Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World, believes that it isn’t enough to focus on building small houses, however perfectly designed they may be. “Plunked down in the midst of a subdivision of McMansions, a tiny house (under 300 square feet) or small house (300–1,500 square feet) would seem absurd. There would be few neighbours around to chat with, since most of their needs are met behind their grand doors. Context is everything: a small house is better with the companionship of other small houses, within range of great public places to go to—preferably by foot or on a bike.”
Chapin is an advocate for the idea that scale and community go hand in hand. Small houses that are clustered into small groups of about a dozen, located in proximity to shared and outdoor spaces, will allow community to thrive. Chapin explains that the scale of these pocket neighbourhoods “matches our innate human propensity for sociability. In small groups, conversation is spontaneous, happening naturally without effort. . . . Pocket neighbourhoods are planned with this scale of sociability, where interactions among neighbours are part of the daily flow of life.”
With such importance placed on social interaction, one could imagine that residents of pocket communities lack privacy. Chapin’s design concepts for creating successful small-house communities are intended to find a balance between social and private life.
Read about Chapin’s nine design patterns in “Better Together: Small House Living Thrives in a Community,” in the Fall 2015 issue of Input, page 40.
More information about Ross Chapin
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