Setting the Stage
Explain to students that they will view Even the Walls, a short film about a low-income housing project, Yesler Terrace, in downtown Seattle. The Seattle Housing Authority is tearing down the site in order to create a larger, mixed-income neighborhood with both residential and business spaces. Explain that the filmmakers explore the human connections that are created within the Yesler Terrace neighborhood.
Read this quote from Saman Maydani, one of the filmmakers, aloud or write it on the board:
Being in a space that allows for neighborhood connections, like seeing your neighbors, interacting with the children, watching each others backs and properties—these things all increase feelings of safety and ownership in a space. And these are our natural human inclinations, if our environments support us.
Ask students to think about where they live. What are some of the physical characteristics of their housing communities? Do students live in houses or apartments? Do they live in an urban or rural area? Ask students how the design of housing might support neighbors by encouraging them to engage with others. (Some answers could include: Porches facing other apartments or houses, wide hallways or community areas—such as lobbies in apartment buildings—shared parks, playgrounds, or other outdoor spaces, laundromats, restaurants, and shops.)
Ask students if there is a design feature from this list that they would like to see as part of their neighborhood to encourage a stronger sense of community? If so, what would that be? Why?