Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Jane Jacobs is dead

The lioness of urbanism now walks the streets of the ethereal city.
Jane Jacobs, a giant among urban critics and enthusiasts who died on Tuesday aged 89, spent her entire career fighting for one deceptively simple principle: leave the cities alone and let them develop by themselves.

In many ways, Jacobs's tireless fight for the organic, spontaneous city - for wide sidewalks, old buildings, a mix of businesses, semi-supervised children at play, and trees - was ahead of its time...

But in retrospect, Jacobs's message initally surfaced as a final warning, nearly coinciding with the dawn of government-sponsored neighbourhood-razing and cement-pouring...

Jacobs's countless suggestions about preserving street life were ultimately ignored. Numerous cities cited in her study - Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit - still wear the excesses of ill-advised renewal spending. The Back-of-the-Yards neighbourhood on Chicago's south side earned Jacobs's praise as poor but vital; today, it scarcely exists. (source: Financial Times 4/25/06)
It's a good time to read her classic book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) if you are unfamiliar with it. It's required reading for anybody who has any interest in or is involved with cities, urban renewal or urban planning.

New York Times
Financial Times
ABC News


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's sad to see Jacobs go. She had a unique vision about cities that seems to be lost on our modern culture.

Elgin with all its planning, fails to realize that "if you built it" they might not come.

You have to create conditions where business and social activity can exist, by being flexible and supportive of community and outside efforts.

Unfortunately, Elgin is too controlling to allow this to happen, which thwarts good ideas and thwarts mom and pop businesses from developing downtown - they're all afraid of the next big "project plan."

Case in point: The Mission, The Great American Diner and the condo conversion on the west side. These businesses have had to deal with being fearful of their futures.

And if there are good ideas, it can be difficult having them supported by the city due to its supreme bureaucracy.

The bottom line: Elgin needs to be careful that it doesn't turn into a city without a soul.

7:34 AM  

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