How to Build a Village City

Most of the world’s population lives in cities. 56% percent, to be exact, and that number is only expected to rise, says World Bank.

Given this, keeping human wellness, as well as land protection and regeneration, at the forefront of city growth is a topic of high importance for many: city-dwellers who value a connection to land as well as the ability to live in a high-density area, those interested in land regeneration, city officials who want to do right by their constituents, and more.

Luckily, there are many solutions underway that will support the expansion of urban centers as well as human wellbeing and regeneration efforts. With some savvy planning, cities of the future can become hubs of business, culture, and regeneration.

Bringing the village to life

According to Architect Mark Lakeman, it is possible to start shifting the feel and function of a given city away from disconnected, inorganic grids and towards abundant, energizing village-style neighbourhoods and blocks by implementing a few key elements:

  • A Center. Every “village” needs a shared gathering place (or many places) and pleasant, accessible walkways to get there. This could be a park, playground, library, tool shed, basketball court, barbeque patio, art shed, or live music pavilion. What would you gather your community around?
  • Portals. Welcoming, aesthetically pleasing entry and exit points to the neighbourhood.
  • Pathways that follow the natural curve of the land and plants on it, instead of blasting through the natural landscape with pin-straight pathways.
  • Common Water, like a duck pond or stream that runs through the village. Water can be collected from roofs and channeled into the water feature to avoid using extra energy to pump in external water.
  • Community Agriculture, like community gardens and greenhouses.
  • Animals. Depending on the size and location of a village, raising animals like goats, chickens, bees, rabbits, piglets and more can be totally doable and provide excellent opportunities for engaging kids outside.
  • Energy. What exactly a village’s energy solution looks like will vary based on needs. Common solutions are windows that capture heat or paint that repels it, and planted roofs that provide insulation which reduces the need for heating and cooling inside a building. There are so many options!

It takes a village to make a village

One of the first steps to bringing this idea to life is making people feel empowered to affect and interact actively with the land and spaces around them.

Mr. Lakeman points out that current North American city blocks and urban centers are built rigidly. The streets are only for cars, houses must go in neat rows, and neighbours have little incentive to interact with one another. However, this model does not support mental or physical wellbeing.

To be clear, Lakeman is not advocating for a total disregard for order and personal space. Rather, he advocates for spaces that support modern life with driveways, well-maintained streets, efficient homes and beautiful private yards, and that encourage interaction, collaboration, regeneration, and empowerment to affect the look, feel and function of shared spaces.

By building city blocks that encourage village-like community, residents become empowered to affect and benefit from the public spaces around them in holistic and regenerative ways.

“Building cities that ‘work’ – green, resilient and inclusive– requires intensive policy coordination and investment choices. National and local governments have an important role to play to act now, to shape the future of their development, and to create opportunities for all.” – World Bank

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