During 1929 Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs has promoted the idea of neighborhood units with the help of a monograph. Perry in The Neighborhood Unit, a Scheme of Arrangement for the Family-Life Community has written monograph about neighborhood unit. If one looks into the historical roots of the term it will be evident that it was coined in 1923 because both American Sociological Society and National Community Center Association have used the term but formally term has been used in 1929. Perry has tried to conceptualize the term and suggested that it is collection of different social, physical and institutional forces in that era. Perrys designation as Chief Financial backer with Russell Sage Foundation has helped him in developing this sort of definition for the neighborhood unit (Glenn, Brandt, and Andrews, 1947). After Perry has given his concept Russell Sage Foundation has used this definition widely in their residential plans in the future to make strong neighborhood. Perrys concept about family life and community was applied widely but it has also received lots of criticism for being device of social engineering. Although neighborhood unit is social practice, it is widely considered to be a physical design which is used to facilitate the people in interaction with other residents of the area. Physical standards are used by the neighborhood units to accomplish the mission of interaction between the residents of an area for example open areas, school system, enhancing the safety of residents from the automobiles and commercial areas.
Ideal residential units are given by the idea of neighborhood unit because they are physical areas which have all the possible facilities for example schools, churches and areas for the recreational activities of the residents. The design of neighborhood unit has ensured that residents can get all the facility within the geographical limit of half mile (Figure 1). Design of the neighborhood units has ensured that major arterial street doesnt come in the way of the residents when they are trying to approach nearby commercial area. Streets with traffic are discouraged in these designs so that pedestrians can walk freely in the streets without any sort of distraction due to vehicular movements on their way. The architectural design offered by the Perry suggested that 160 acre neighborhood should be developed in a way that 10 units per acre. These units will be sufficient to support the inhabitant of that area. His design suggested that 10% of whole unit will be kept for park and recreational activities of the residents of area. Perrys design has added many new concepts for instance, Perry suggested that all schools must have a playing area for the students and center of unit must have all useful commercial centers and churches. All these features of the neighborhood unit focus on the physical development of an area. Since 1920s Perrys concept and design of neighborhood unit has been widely used in the residential plan in the United States of America. His design has been used as primary guide for the construction of residential areas (Fuleon, 1996). Other researcher such as Banerjee and Baer have also accepted this fact that for more than half century Perrys ideas and designs has been used as sole design for the construction of residential areas. Neighborhood unit has helped the formal organization of urban residential areas (1984). Likewise Lynch (1994) suggested that idea of neighborhood unit has been used as basic idea for construction of cities. On National Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership idea of neighborhood unit has been promoted it got lots of exposure. Idea of neighborhood unit has been promoted through American Public Health Association in their handbook, Planning the Neighborhood (1948). Federal Housing Authority has added the idea of Perry in their guidelines for modern construction. Idea of neighborhood unit has not only approved the design given by Perry but also used it in their developmental plans (Dahir, Osborn, 1898). In practice many important features of Perrys design are neglected such as 10% free space for the parks, play area for schools and no traffic routes on the way to center of neighborhood unit. Perry has actually given proper setup for the reorganization of modern cities.
The concept of Perry is basically referring to the self-contained block of the city because it is encompassing all the basic facilities of the life. The word unit is added to this idea because of self-contained nature of the concept. Perry after introducing his ideas located four sites where his idea can be practically implemented in the city for example: vacant sites, central areas of the cities which are going through great deterioration etc. Perry (1933) thinks that such areas need rebuilding and his ideas can be implemented in these areas In his later publication Perry realized that idea of creating neighborhood unit is impractical in areas which are part of already in built areas. He modified his plan and asked for the government intervention and taking private land for the public benefits. He thought that this idea will be more suitable for building neighborhood unit instead of working in already built areas.
Neighborhood units idea given by Perry got lots of acceptance all across the world. In Germany his idea has been introduced to divide the city into specialized sections. In the plan domestic quarters are considered functional and treated according to its own needs. Needs of residential area is different as compared to commercial and industrial area so they all are treated according to their own needs. He treated the residential zone as nuclear entity and tried to incorporate all the basic facilities into it. These ideas are so captivating and practical that one cant challenge the design given by the Perry. In the modern age this idea seems impractical because people are becoming accustomed to take extra burden and pay the cost of transportation from one zone of the city to another zone of the city. People dont think all the inconvenience they face from travelling from one place to another place. On the other hand Perry has designed his neighborhood units in a way that they can facilitate the family life especially women and children. Design ensures that people of all age groups have an open access to some cultural and social activities such as school, cinema, churches and recreational points. When all these institutions will be at easy access it will help in the consistent use of all family members. When these institutions will be scattered throughout the city it will discourage the use of these intuitions by the residents of an area. Use of these intuitions on regular bases is very important for any society (Mumford, 1954).
Basic elements of Neighborhood Unit:
A School should be built at the center of the neighborhood unit so that children can reach the school by covering the distance of quarter or half of the mile. Design of the neighborhood unit also ensures that there is no major arterial street on their way to school. Size of the school should support the children of 5,000 to 9,000 residents in any neighborhood unit. There should be large playing area adjacent to the school which can support the recreational activities and different meetings of the community when needed.
Lawhon (2009) maintained that Perrys neighborhood unit is surrounded by many physical ideals:
Major traffic routes especially Arterial Street should not pass through any neighborhood unit. Streets in residential neighborhood should provide the perimeter for the neighborhood.
Street pattern of the neighborhood unit should be constructed in a way that it uses cul-de-sacs. This surface with light duty and curved layout will lead towards safe and low traffic rate in the residential area and keeping the environment quiet and soothing for the residents.
Population of any neighborhood unit should not exceed the limit set by the school in the area. School must support the population in any unit.
School in the area should be at the focal point of neighborhood unit and other institution of the neighborhood unit which has central importance for the residents should be at the center of neighborhood unit.
Perry ensured that that radius of neighborhood unit should be quarter of a mile because this has been used to calculate the distance of school for a child from his home. In order to make the school at walking distance he used this measure.
Shopping centers should be constructed at the corners of neighborhood unit or they must be constructed at the intersection of major streets in the area.
Stein and Wright adopted the intellectual base developed by Howard and Perry. Stein and Wright has given the idea of neighborhood, which was based on the gridiron street design and they added the play areas and meeting points as integral part of their construction plan. In the Radburn neighborhood they both carried out a construction plan on the bases of their idea. Radburn was planned in 1928 and it was built in next three years. They have introduced a new idea in the construc...
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