Recently, a Grist reader wrote to ask Umbra whether apartment buildings are designed to discourage interaction with neighbors. It struck a chord.

In the spring, I moved to my first solo apartment in a downtown building, and I have yet to exchange more than a “hello” with the people who live on either side of me. In fact, I’ve never seen the neighbor to my right. The tenant could be a human-sized badger — I have no idea.

Apartment life can be strangely isolating: the intimacy of removing a complete stranger’s underwear from the building washing machine; the awkwardness of silent elevator rides while rubbing elbows with a fellow tenant; the jealous pangs of hurrying alone past a cluster of happy friends sharing pizza on your stoop.