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Jane Jacobs ideas and legacy

Contemporary city: descriptions and projects

Alessandra Girotto

on 5 July 2013

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Transcript of Jane Jacobs ideas and legacy

The Death and Life of Great American Cities 1961, What she was responding to Her biography Main central themes Physical environment of the city: fundamental and direct effects on social life, especially at the neighborhood level - physical determinism?

Mixed land uses: city environment is linked to spatial and temporal mix of social-economical activities idea of dullness caused by the lack of urban mix.

The urban diversity can be achieved only through four conditions:
1)Neighborhoods should have several functions, so to have people on the streets at all hours of the day.
2)Block should be small and the street structure intricate, with pedestrian accessibility as a priority.
3)Variation in the residential area should be obtained through different building ages, level of maintenance and incomes.
4)High degree of concentration of people in one place, to have compact city neighborhoods. Main central themes Street Eyes: self-policing of the neighborhood can prevent most potential safety problems, creating also a sense of possession and empowerment in the neighbors.
Main sociological points:
-Neighborhood in contemporary cities, with two levels, street neighborhood and district (the latter is a level of government more accessible than the City Hall).
-Relationships of built environment and social life (she reject the idea of urban "turf").
Underlying order - web of sensitive relationships which holds neighborhoods together - confirm her rejection to drawn plans and general policies. Methodological approach "Seek truth from facts" Deng Xiaoping Ideas and legacy Jane Jacobs Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1916
Moved to Greenwich Village in New York City, 1928
Associate editor of Architectural Forum, 1952
She wrote The Death and Life of American Cities, 1961
In 1962, she was Chairperson of the Joint Committee to stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway.
Protesting the Vietnam War, she and her family emigrated to Toronto, Canada in 1968, where she continued to work as an urban activist.
She died in Toronto, in 2006 at the age of 90. Life and work She wrote seven books and a number of notes (short magazine articles, letters, newspapers):
It can be roughly divided into two parts:
1)'60-'80, the problems of cities and their role in the economy and society;
2)'90-2006, social-philosophical issues. an Urban Manifesto Going against the common wisdom of the age Model for her thinking about urban development
With her work and in particular this book, she was able to change the way people think about cities
Focus on the local and the individual
Places humans at the center of public thought

What the book is about?
Describes the specific nature of the cities (functions of sidewalks for safety, social relationships, educating children, functions of urban parks and of neighborhoods).
Points out the conditions to have urban diversity (primary functions, small blocks, old buildings mixed with new ones, density)
Proposes some ways to regenerate the City Key concepts of her thoughts Examples:
Large sidewalks permit neighborly visiting and children's play in a dense residential area (Picture: Chicago)
Parks can work only if they connect different adjoining functions (Picture: Rittenhouse Square Philadelphia) Key concepts of her work “This is something everyone knows: A well-used city street is apt to be a safe street. A deserted city street is apt to be unsafe.”
(Below:Urban turfs in NY and Detroit)
(Next: Eyes-on-the-street) Critics This motto explains perfectly her style and method:
Observation, keeping an eye for details, giving a fine-grained description of urban life.
Active participation in disputes between locality and city officials - she isn't neutral at all. A comparison with China and Europe Is her contribution only applicable to American Cities? Physical determinism T. Row says: angry, subjective, too sentimentalist and she's not interested in economic machinery of urban region. Freeze the ongoing development of the city - nostalgia "The point of cities is multiplicity of choice. It is impossible to take advantage of multiplicity of choice without being able to get around easily" contradiction,
Expressways Attacks planners and architects because is easier to address to them instead of arguing with large corporate enterprises and real estate developers Her research lacks of interest in social stratification and she seems to be race blind. Unable to understand American families spatial environmental preferences Her legacy Common sense and respect for human vagaries and humane values into the technocracy of traditional professional land use design Contributed to the launch of the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965 Her ideas were considered the intellectual origins of the New Urbanism movement Placed humans and not institutions at the centre of public thought. Greenwich Village Nowdays - The White Horse
Old and famous tavern mentioned several times by J. Jacobs as a creator of diversity North End - Boston
A slum self recovered thanks to urban mix and diversity, acting round-the-clock Europe Laws for preservation of landmarks and historical buildings and cities (example: Italy, 1939 law for protection of the natural beauty or 1985 law Galasso) Few big cities (metropolis) and quite different from the American ones Application of Street Eyes policies and mixed use lands (examples in Dutch cities like Breda and Haarlem, Essen in the Ruhr and Sheffield) China Issue of countries in cities Critic of smaller blocks Historical courtyards now with different functions than residential Street Eyes and Laws for preservation: the striking difference from Europe “City – how shall I put it? – they’re the crux of so many different subjects, so many different puzzles. There’s almost nothing you can think of that cities don’t provide some insight into”. From left to right: Haarlem (Holland), Breda (Holland), Essen - Ruhr Museum (Germany), Sheffield - Kelham Island Museum (England).
From top to bottom: Villages in cities, Court yards in Beijing, Pattern in Wuhan. "This book is an attack on current city planning" Her overall statements to municipal and federal governments is: do less, do smaller things, let individual do things, preserve, favor pedestrians and residents over cars and trucks Planners objectives are to meet quantitative demands without producing repetitive dullness, and at prices that families can afford providing new opportunities for citizens. Idea of Social Capital "Bulldozer" urban renewal (Robert Moses-Lower Manhattan Expressway)
Modernism, orthodox school of urban planning (technocratic formula in UP)
Garden City model and City Beautiful in particular for American cities. Sharp contrast to the mega project ideal (Le Corbusier, Robert Moses)
Urban development cannot be planned behind a drawing table
Biological metaphor to describe the city (living being with people, streets, parks, neighborhoods, the government and the economy as its fundamental elements). "The city has something to offer to everyone, since it is created by everyone"
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