What's in a Neighborhood?

Tom Vanderbilt examines the word “neighborhood,” a term "frequently invoked yet seldom analyzed". He traces attempts to define, redefine, strengthen and weaken the concept in modern urbanism. Is it obsolete or more important than ever?

"Neighborhoods often exist as much in the collective imagination as on urban ground, their borders shifting depending on who draws them," observes Vanderbilt. "Contrast a map of San Francisco neighborhoods produced by the municipal planning department with another effort—this one created by the city’s realtors’ association—and the activity becomes a children’s game of 'spot the differences.'”

In light of the different ways the term has been used and abused, he asks: "What is a neighborhood? How do neighborhoods relate to the larger city? How much influence do neighborhoods exert in their residents’ lives? And in an era of global cities and digital communities, do we even need neighborhoods?"

"Though their obsolescence has been prophesied at various points, neighborhoods remain a vital—perhaps the most vital—way of thinking about the modern city," he argues.

Full Story: Welcome to the Jumble


building block set

NEW! Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.

Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245
Wood necklace with city map

City Necklaces

These sweet pendants are engraved on a cedar charm with a mini map of selected cities. The perfect gift for friends and family or yourself!
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $16.95 a month