Day 3 - Something to bring back home

Submitted by Eli Winterfeld on September 24, 2012 - 9:34pm

The most inspiring and stand out hour from Sunday at the Art of Community conference was a workshop with Mark Lakeman.  Mark had spoken earlier in the conference and I had written a little about that.  This session was much more intimate and engaging as there were only 20 people participating and thus dialogue was more open and participatory.  Mark’s main premise (as I have interpreted it) is that by slowly turning our neighbourhoods into places help people value relationships and localism over material consumption and isolated life we will move towards a better world. 

                Our workshop was centred around a three dimensional, cooperative game that Mark had made called “Block Repair: The World Peace Game”.   The board was a 3d to scale model of the block Mark lives on in Portland (the way the neighbourhood looked in 1998). 

                We tried to look at the neighbourhood more holistically.  We started by taking the whole board outside, and by spinning and tilting it Mark showed us the different sunlight patterns that existed in his neighbourhood at different times of the year.  We were then able to theorize about places that gardens and solar panels could go, looking at the whole neighbourhood’s light distribution rather than that of just one property.  Mark explained that because of the way the sun was distributed and due to some peoples’ preferences, one home was able to create solar energy for itself and another home while the other home was willing to work at rain water catchment for both homes (something which the first home was not interested in undertaking themselves).

                As the workshop unfolded we slowly added to the neighbourhood by means of construction paper cut outs.  We started by introducing gateways into the neighbourhood.  Gateways that were interesting and inviting (Mark really wants to get away from grid like 90 degree sidewalks, roads and property division).  We then proceeded by imagining most of the fences were taken down and mulch paths were built in between the homes.  The idea was that we were creating journeys for people and that getting to a neighbour’s can be a lot more interesting than two lefts and a right around the perimeter of the block. 

                We then built a network for the redirecting, storage and purification of rain and household waste water.  On top of that we added dream initiatives including a sauna, bike shop, tree house, tool share shop, chicken coops and much much more.  We were thus creating various meeting places in the neighbourhood and one central hub in the centre of all the houses. 

                The last phase of the game was creating paths from the newly transformed blocks to the surrounding blocks across the streets.  Slowly the ideas will spread until the whole city has emerged from its old cocoon of isolation and become a beautiful butterfly of community and ecological living.

                All in all the conference was a wonderful experience.  The workshops and new people were inspiring and affirming.  I hope that we are able to attend or host a gathering of a similar nature in a community near you!

                What are your thoughts on this take on neighbourhood rejuvenation?

How refreshing!



I have really enjoyed reading about your learning at this conference- sounded so neat! Thank-you for describing this exercise- I think it has much to teach/for us to think about how physical transformation of a neighborhood may impact our interactions/sense of connectedness.

There is a house across the road from my home that has no fences around at all. This may not seem that significant, but all the other houses in the nieghborhood do have fences- making this other house really stand out. It got me thinking- do we really need fences? What do we put up fences- privacy? safety? There can be legitimate reasons- especially with young children close to busy roads.  However, I love the idea of mulch paths between houses.

In my childhood neighborhood, we were one of the first families to move into a new subdivision- before fences went up. Our backyard backefd onto 5 other houses' backyards--- it felt like the biggest, best backyard ever!! Then, the fences inevitably went up. BUT, I think having a mulch path between our houses would have held such more for us to connect as neighbours!

Such interesting things to ponder!

How might we shift into neighborhood revitalization in our own communities? What steps could be taken to begin to tackle physical isolation?