This guest post comes from Max Musicant, founder and principal of The Musicant Group, an award-winning placemaking firm dedicated to “creating places where people feel alive.” Here, he writes about their latest project: Friendly Front Yards.
August 1st was National Night Out – one of the best evenings of the year for our neighborhoods. Across the country countless people come together in streets, sidewalks, and parks to spend a warm summer night together with food, fun, and conversation.
Why can’t every night be National Night Out? The answer is that it can be!
Over the last two years, from seeds planted in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Friendly Front Yard (FFY) placemaking movement has grown; transforming American front lawns into places that bring people together and strengthen communities.
This impulse is nothing new for those with Little Free Libraries in their yards – it’s what we’re all about! But through the practice of placemaking you can leverage your LFL to create an even friendlier yard, meet your neighbors, and build community! By one measure those that utilized the Friendly Front Yard approach met, on average, five new neighbors!
By applying these 5 strategies to your front yard, you too can create community, one front yard at a time:
1. Semi-enclosure and permeability
Spaces that are too open make us feel exposed; too closed and we can feel safe, but cut off. The semi-enclosure of a good porch or a cozy booth at a restaurant feels good. These spaces allow you to choose whether to be social or private. Create semi-enclosures through rows of pots, low shrubs or walls, trellises, or the overhangs of trees.
2. Have several things to do
If there is nothing to do, there is no reason to be somewhere. Think about what you and your family want to do: read, sleep, eat, grill, garden, play, etc. and then create the conditions where those can happen in the front yard.
3. Consider sunlight and shade
Sun in the morning comes from the east when it is cooler. In late afternoon and evening it shines from the south and west when it is hotter. Consider how activity areas interact with the sunny and shady parts of your space and if additions such as shade or movable elements are needed.
4. Have (moveable) seating
If you can’t sit down comfortably you won’t want to stay very long in your front yard. Place movable seating so you can constantly adjust the arrangement to accommodate any view, group, or use.
5. Protect your back
Having a structure behind you – like a house, ledge, tree, or hedge – makes one feel comfortable. Protecting your back prevents being (and the anxiety of being) surprised and ensures a good view out to a larger vista. In general, have your back at least perpendicular and not directly facing the street or an active pathway.
Bonus! Boundaries that bind
This strategy ties the other 5 together. Boundaries are too often thought of as dividers, but they can and should bind two sides together harmoniously. Celebrate and enhance the boundary places where two things meet: grass and path, house and yard, garden and hill. The possibilities are endless! Make these boundaries special places in of themselves and watch your yard come to life before you.
With these strategies, you and your neighbors can create places where you want to be, where children play, where food is eaten and prepared, where relationships are formed, and where serendipity becomes the norm.
For more information and to download your free Friendly Front Yard toolkit, visit www.friendlyfronts.com.