“What makes community?” is permanently on the lips of Built Environment professionals. People inject places with life and good space design embodies this. Being immersed in different cultures has revealed the elixir of community as hard to quantify.
Damp seeps up my trouser leg as I sit listening to the wind rattling through the trees, enjoying the night breeze. Despite the heat we shuffle closer together on our log as the hangman dons his gloves. The entire village have peeled themselves from their beds for this moment. The air is electric, even the leaves seem to have stopped rustling. Footsteps resonate as he approaches his prey. Inhaling sharply I feel my neighbour brace themselves. I’m staring in horror, paralysed by premature shock. Before I know it, it’s done. A tussle, a screech and two chickens – parted body and head. There they lay and my repulsion is overtaken by curiosity. What was the old wives tale of a headless chicken? Fallacy? Everyone breathes, calm descends and our senses are once more invaded by the musky scent of night. In the corner of my eye something flickers, I turn captivated by the sight of two headless birds puppeteered into life. Glowing half-light depicts a macabre skit of two plump bodies careering and bashing into each other. The moment seems eternal. In the distance a mullah strikes up his haunting call, the chicken spasms and sunlight floods the beach. The day of celebration has arrived.
Hours further east only a cat stirs. Neat rows of flowers peep up at me as I stroll home through the Tokyo suburbs. Shutters are closed in a nod to Japanese privacy but a sense of community lives on in this Stepford movie set. Mutual respect will bring the obasan out tomorrow, and every, morning, daintily sweeping the spotless streets. Commuters sail by astride bicycles, teetering as they answer their mobile phones. Paradox grips Tokyo with painstaking tradition helping the city retain a heart.
Hurtle across time-zones and you’ll find yourself in London, a place where many feel the sense of community has been lost. Here freedom and infrastructure empowers citizens to foster communities based on common purpose. Is this at the expense of belonging to a place or is the beauty in the co-existance of a group of friends lounging on the Rec post Sunday lunch alongside a toddler’s kickabout, a yoga class and auditioning musicians?