Fastco 1

How Urban Design Influences How Many Friends You Have

In some ways, their behavior was predicted by decades of sociology similar to Baum’s campus studies. The front doors of the town houses all led to semiprivate porches overlooking the podium garden. They provided regular opportunities for brief, easy contact. These porches were a soft zone, where you could hang out or retreat as you wished. (What would happen if a tower dweller decided to just “hang out” in the hallway in the adjoining tower? Not only would he be bored and uncomfortable, but eventually someone would call the police.) Without realizing it, McDowell and his neighbors were testing out a law of social geometry identified by Danish urbanist Jan Gehl.

For more of this Happy City excerpt, read on at FastCo Exist: How Urban Design Influences How Many Friends You Have