The purpose of the study was to examine the role and functionality of porches in a New Urbanist community in Tallahassee, Florida. New Urbanist communities are mixed-used communities, often with town centers, where all aspects of the community, from housing to eateries to retail stores are all within walking distance. The goal of this study was to see how porches, which have traditionally been gathering places, are currently used in contemporary society. In most New Urbanist communities, porches are seen as an essential element of the architectural design. In addition to the study of porches in contemporary society, the literature reviews the historical role of the porch.
The community of Southwood in Tallahassee, Florida was selected as the site where the study was conducted. Southwood is a typical New Urbanist community, set up to be walkable, fully accessible, and a self-contained “city” of its own. The community has its own school, restaurants, small downtown area and a community center. The methodology utilized was visual observation. During observation sessions, the data collected for the study included: dates, street names, number of stories in the house, availability of a porch, type of porch, and what activity was occurring on the porch at that specific time. After the data was collected, the assessment was done based upon how often activity was noted on the porch.
The results of this study showed that while porches are still popular for aesthetic purposes, there was very little activity on the porches. Clearly, the functionality of porches today does not reflect the past function of the porch. Porches have become more of a design element rather than the functional place they have been in the past.