When you think of the ever more colossal new developments going up in London – whether individual skyscrapers or clusters of apartment buildings – it’s natural to wonder whether a lonely life awaits if all the residents ever do is go from lobby to lift to front door. Leaving early, coming home late and shoving a Tesco Finest Steak au Poivre in the microwave: where’s the opportunity for getting to know the neighbours?
The thing is, whatever current lifestyles may be, people are still people. We are hardwired for community. Always have been, always will be. And given how almost all of life can now be organised through a smartphone, it seems only right that technology should provide the answer.
It was interesting to read recently that developments like Battersea Power Station have their own app for residents, allowing gatherings to be organised, chairs to be borrowed, found items returned to their owners and local tips and favourite hangouts to be shared.
Back in the early 200os when Hartley’s Jam Factory in Bermondsey was converted into around 200 apartments across three mammoth Victorian buildings, the residents set up their own website and even bought local businesses, opening a gastro pub and coffee shop where there had been none. Instant community was created, giving the residents a sense of belonging and connection. At Havelock Walk in Forest Hill (pictured), a Victorian mews of former workshops has gradually become a natural community of creative people seeking the company of like minded souls.
Of course, it can all be done with private facebook groups with no need for any extra technology, like in the developments by Fizzy Living. Acting as a sort of virtual pub, people can talk with each other wherever they are: there’s no need to be at home to chat with your neighbours or help each other out.
This makes a great use of time on those early morning and late evening commutes, and might even change our views of people glued to their phones on buses and trains. Rather than being isolated and filling up on trivia, they might just be being a good neighbour.