For decades, city dwellers and developers have abandoned the front yard as key element of a home’s livability, especially in new suburbs where the front porch was replaced by the two-car garage that left room for just a modest landing at the front door.
But it was not just suburbanites who turned their backs on the street. Many inner city homes with back alley garages also seemingly forgot they have a front yard. Sure they often had a small porch, but it was more for decoration than use. While they often held chairs, maybe a small table and a plant or two, but we rarely saw anyone sitting on them. And too, often the inner-city front yard had a tree or two, a patch of lawn and a narrow sidewalk (seldom used as their residents entered the house from the back where the garage is). There are more similarities than differences between new suburban and new inner city homes than one might expect at a glance.
However, more recently, we have noticed while out on our community walkabouts, that more and more inner city Calgarians are discovering their front yard is a great space for a diversity of uses. And this is a good thing, as it means more interaction with neighbours, as there are no six-foot fences and more eyes on the street.
At first it was the swing on the trees that caught our attention. Then it was the addition of comfy soft seating on the porch, or in some cases, a front-yard plaza/deck to sit and people watch rather than hide behind a six-foot backyard fence.
Art Parks / Gardens
Others have turned their front yard into an art park - one local house even has a cow from the Colourful Cows for Calgary art project back in the year 2,000. It is a “must see” spot with 20-month neighbour boy has to go see the “Moo” whenever he joins us on our walkabouts. Another neighbour has created a sandbox for their kids in the front yard. Several neighbours replace the front lawn with raised vegetable gardens.
Another great front yard phenomena are the – Little Free Libraries (LFL). Calgary now boasts over 200 of these libraries and growing weekly. It simply doesn’t get any better than inviting neighbours walking by to stop and look at what you have been reading - perhaps taking a book home or leaving a book of their own. I love that fact that many of the LFL have a theme, some are lower to the ground and obviously for children, other contain more philosophical books and some are arts oriented. We always stop and check them out.
Perhaps the best example of Calgarians rediscovering their front yards was seen on a recent bike ride - not one, but two, children’s playhouses were located on the front lawns along Broadview Road between 14th and 19th Streets. How cool is that?
I expect I there are hundreds, if not thousands of examples of innovative new uses for front yards in Calgary. Send me your photos (firstname.lastname@example.org) of front yard animation in your community and I’ll post them to this blog.
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