Housing Design With Human Connection In Mind

view of sidewalk flanked by trees, which runs between two low rise housing buildings
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A pedestrian walkway in Tassafaronga Village, where there are spaces for residents to meet up with each other.

A journalist in the United Kingdom, David Ramsay, makes the case that community planning needs to give more attention to connections between neighbours. He argues that if we do, it will strengthenn informal care and support1

In East Oakland, California, Kelly Carlisle would agree. She speaks from experience. Kelly leads a youth urban farm project called acta non verba. The farm provides a space where local kids and youth hang out and grow food. It is located next to Tassafaronga Village, a housing development where attention was given to making space to nurture connections between neighbours.

Acta non verba benefits from the way that Tassafaronga Village is designed. It also gives back, providing food and community space in a neighborhood that is home to Black people and other visible minorities. Many have low incomes.

The architects who led the design of Tassafaronga Village have identified nine features that contribute to building connections when drafting community plans. These include things that might seem kind of minor, such as putting play spaces next to the communal laundry rooms. That way kids can play together while their parents are doing the wash. Unfortunately, elements like these are often eliminated at the design phase in order to reduce costs and pack in more units.

The architects behind Tassaforonga Village say that decisions to eliminate community spaces are shortsighted. They have compiled a guidebook for other designers to draw on. It applies specifically in the United States, but might be a source of inspiration in other countries.

You can read more about acta non verba and Tassafaronga Village in Next City2:
Housing Can Help Cultivate Connections. Here’s How To Do It Right.


  1. Try: Doing More To Welcome People With Disabilities
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