Historically, villages focused around specific gathering places: the school, shop, square, source of fresh water, ceremonial grounds and religious buildings. But present day attempts to recreate community centres fail, with a resulting lack in common gathering place to shop, visit, exchange news, receive common services, or to celebrate together. Buildings and homes are spread over large areas of land, making focused community life difficult. This also increases the cost of electricity, telephones and water, and the lack of a centralized plan makes access to such services difficult to project or extend to other outlying residences. The erasing of community boundaries has been accompanied by a similar break down of the once familiar family areas, such as small gardens and room in houses for family activities.
[Developing countries] The use of available land in the rural communities of many developing countries is restricted by tradition, ownership and settlement patterns, although there is a growing realization of the need to design the space of a community to ensure that the needs of all the people are met. The design of many rural villages emphasizes isolated family dwellings rather than the public space of the entire community. Locations for people to gather for the transaction of business, convenient use of educational facilities, electrical services, common clean water sources and corporate grazing land for animal raising are scattered and do not convey a sense of a well-ordered community. Many people must walk over miles of dirt pathways, occasionally very steep and often made muddy and slippery by abundant rains, to reach farms, stores or schools. The difficulty of transportation through the many narrow pathways does not easily allow the transport of material to build more secure or larger homes. This is further complicated by the fact that isolated families barely make an income from farming so that the purchase of building materials is beyond many families, abilities. The isolated pattern of village housing results in the continuing of a subsistence life style and prevents participation in the conveniences of modern life.
Until the community redesigns its common life around common community buildings and spaces, appropriate both to traditional living patterns and to the age of technology, the possibilities of renewing present structures and building new ones remains blocked. Without increased centralization, these villages cannot expect improvement in services or a real focus for cooperative work in the future.