The face-to-face factor of a community is key when defining a neighborhood. Appealing neighborhoods most likely consist of lively streets, with easy access back and forth between the houses and road. Jane Jacobs had the right idea of the “eyes on the street” and I agree with her interest in street liveliness and intermingling of a community.
The example I’m going to provide for a neighborhood I dislike, unfortunately is my own neighborhood in Connecticut. I’m glad to call it home, but I see major planning issues in suburban communities. My house sits on a hill, which is indicative of the whole neighborhood, and the whole surrounding area for that matter. The hilly topography makes simple tasks such as walking around or going for a run unpleasant. My house is on a cul-de-sac at the end of a dead end street. My neighborhood is quiet and isolated, which is appealing to some people, especially older retired people, but I personally would rather walk outside of my front door and see people walking by and hear passing conversations and the rush of traffic. Unfortunately the layout of my neighborhood forces us to be a car-dependent community, and even if I wanted to walk somewhere it would be dangerous because of the narrow, windy roads and lack of sidewalks. Another key factor that is included in the connotative neighborhood is a functional social network, and the houses being spaced out makes it difficult to meet neighbors and establish a social network that should be present in neighborhoods. Many of the houses have long enough driveways covered with trees that they cannot even be seen from the road.
Last year I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Florence, Italy. Any one who sees the city can tell you its amazing because of its history and its liveliness. Florence is a major tourist destination, and it would be difficult to find someone who dislikes its neighborhood layout. I have visited other cities in Europe, and they seem to have a common theme in their design, one that differs greatly from typical American neighborhoods.
I personally find European neighborhood layouts much more appealing than most neighborhoods found in the United States. The aesthetics differ greatly; cobble stone roads and town squares are emblematic to most European cities. This particular city is mostly flat, which makes for a great view when you climb up to the Piazzale Michelangelo and get an overview of the Duomo and the Neoclassical and Romanesque architecture.
The atmosphere is very different in a town such as Florence in comparison to cities in America. Streets are a lot more lively; parades, street art, and flea markets are every day events. The houses and buildings are much closer together, which allows for a tighter network within communities.
European cities often include rivers and bodies of water more in their towns and their architecture. Cities such as Amsterdam build right on the water, and cities such as Venice use waterways as their main source of transportation. Even though there are plenty of rivers that run through American cities, I believe that European cities integrate them into their urban design better, making it more scenic and interesting.