This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
I talk about density because it’s good for the environment, good for reducing resources, protects natural environemnts and farms, and builds a better city. But I don’t love density just because it’s good for me. I’ve found living and working close to others to be far more enjoyable than the alternative.
The best living arrangement I’ve experienced were college dorms, and remember those days fondly. We were packed 2 to a tiny room, around 50 to a floor with a shared bathroom on our floor and a cafeteria downstairs. But the human interaction that created was amazing – we all (all 50) acted like a family and kept our doors open to be able to wander in and out of our neighbors’ rooms and to hear what’s going on nearby.
The most fun and most productive office environment I’ve had was in small cubicles where we could talk freely with those around us while working. We could ask questions and share information effortlessly, but also joked and formed strong personal bonds.
I currently live in the best neighborhood I’ve lived in. It’s an old “streetcar suburb” with 30′ lot lines. I can walk to 3 grocery stores, dozens of restaurants, bars, drug stores, parks, libraries etc. I can ride my bike to work in 10 minutes. I have a bus line a block from my house that can get me most anywhere.
The worst neighborhood experience, living arrangement, and office experience I’ve had was when I lived in the suburbs. I commuted long distances to a large office with walls and a door, where I’d have to get up and walk into a coworker’s office – if we wanted more than two to talk we’d both have to go to the next office (this rarely happened). At home I barely knew my neighbors – and even then it was just the people next to me. I couldn’t walk to any stores or services and had to drive everywhere. My commute distance left me with barely any free time, and I lived for the weekend – and even then much of my time was taken up with mowing the large lawns.
So that’s what’s built my opinion of density – ignoring all of the social, economic, and environmental benefits. I think it might come down to personality type. If you like people, density is for you. If you like to be left alone, maybe you’re a suburbanite.