One daughter of Sam Walton (think: Walmart Sam Walton) is trying to bring community into the designed spaces where we live. Christy Walton’s first project called Black Apple was recently built in Bentonville, Arkansas. The idea came to her after reading: Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World (Taunton Press, 2011), by nationally renowned Seattle-based architect Ross Chapin. According to Chaplin, “Pocket neighborhoods (or communities) are clustered groups of neighboring houses or apartments gathered around a shared open space — a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley — all of which have a clear sense of territory and shared stewardship.”
According to the Black Apple website:
This community represents an old and new way at looking at the American Community. Prior to World War II… [it was common to find] modest scale homes – typically appointed with front porches organized around a central courtyard where conversation and relationship with neighbors was prevalent and important part of daily life. Since then the American Dream… graduated to a “more is better” philosophy – larger homes in isolated communities, high privacy fences, large garages, often disconnected from urban cores with little need to interact with neighbors in everyday passing.
The community was designed by Falls Church, Va.–based design-build firm GreenSpur in collaboration with Milestone Construction. They drew inspiration from multiple sources and, like a site-specific artist, they carefully considered the soil these contemporary houses rest upon. “In a nod to the development’s agrarian namesake, which comes from the Arkansas Black, a deep burgundy apple cultivar once common in the Ozark region, Black Apple’s commons building is designed in the style of the traditional American corncrib, with a gable roof and deep eaves, canted walls, horizontal siding, and open slats.” (Schuler, 2015)
While the idea of shared spaces sounds great, it is well documented that we Americans enjoy some privacy as well. One thing that makes the Black Apple design so successful is that they considered the interior personal spaces as much as the community-shared exterior spaces. Countertops are made of butcher block and thick wooden floorboards never let you forget the nature that surrounds this place. And for those nights you don’t want to join your neighbors at the community fire pit, rest assured you can cozy up to the flickering flames of the modern gas fireplace in your living room. Eleven open faced Vision gas fireplaces, by European Home, were installed for this project. The fireplace’s intimate scale (28″ wide) and clean, seamless lines worked perfectly with these spaces which celebrate subtlety and detail over ornamentation and extravagance.
According to GreenSpur founder Mark Turner, “pocket communities are in demand nationwide because they encourage casual interactions between neighbors. These relationships, in turn, become an invaluable asset to the development. It’s the community that gives richness to the people living there,” he says. If this project, and indeed this movement, proves anything it’s that good design can change culture; it can get us out of our heads, out of our smart phones, and into the lives and stories that surround us.
Citations and Contributors:
Black Apple Pocket Community Brings High-Performance Homes to Suburban Arkansas
Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World
Black Apple: The Story
Joe Wittkop Photography
Posted by: Cory John Ploessl
Cory is the Marketing Manager for European Home. He has an MFA in Sculpture from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. He writes about fireplace and modern design on the European Home Blog.