Designing a Sense of Community: The Use of Neo-Traditional Design Elements in Public Housing

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Virginia Tech

This paper will address the question of whether neo-traditional design elements can promote a sense of community in low income or public housing neighborhoods. To answer this question, I will first provide a brief history of public housing and its design, describing the main architectural styles used over the years and their relation to sense of community (or lack thereof). I will then examine the current meanings associated with community and the possible implications for using design elements to aid in fostering a sense of community for public housing residents. I will next explore the basic tenants underlying the theory of neo-traditional design elements and how these design elements can assist in the community building process. I will then apply these neo-traditional design elements to a prototype neighborhood for public and low-income housing residents in order to understand how these design elements could be implemented in order to encourage the creation of a sense of community. Finally, I will examine Diggs Town, a public housing project in Norfolk, Virginia that recently underwent renovations using neo-traditional design elements. I then draw some conclusions concerning the strengths and weaknesses of this public housing renovation effort and the possible successes associated with the use of neo-traditional design elements in low income and public housing.

public housing, community, design, neo-traditional