In A Pattern Language Christopher Alexander says, "Isolated buildings are symptoms of a disconnected, sick society." When I walk down our Vermont country dirt road, I see remnants of foundations here and there. Houses were once build very close up here on Kelsey Mountain, but now all that's left of a former community are a few foundation stones, some stone walls, a few old lilac bushes and several patches of tiger lilies someone planted long ago. I also pass the brick remains of a little one room school house, long since abandoned.
I've heard that when people wanted to throw a party, they'd stand on their porch and blow a horn. Neighbors watched out for each other up here in what can be a very cold and forbidding place at times, and they still do. But we now have our share of McMansions dotting the Vermont landscape--and I've noticed each of them looks extremely isolated.
When we moved to Cambridge, MA from Dubuque, Iowa where we lived on a cul-de-sac and knew all our neighbors, I thought, "We'll never meet anyone here in 'heady' Cambridge--everyone will be too busy at one of our numerous universities to bother to know us." But we lived in a townhouse with eight adjoining units--and everybody knew everybody. We were anything but isolated.
How will urban areas of the future benefit from their lack of isolation? How will our more rural areas compensate? What if our stores were so close together that walking between them would be pleasurable, rather than driving from huge box store complexes to huge box store complexes? Do our communities foster isolation?