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« Borjas is Blogging | Main | Quality of Life Linkage »

May 23, 2007

More Jane Jacobs

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Here's an interview with the great Jane Jacobs that I just stumbled across. Although it's a conversation about mundane-seeming stuff -- the city of Buffalo and its plans to build a convention center -- it got my head vibrating in wonderful ways.

Typical passage:

INTERVIEWER: If these developments have to arise out of the efforts of individual innovators, what role can the government play in promoting the right sort of conditions to enable that?

JACOBS: The government often needs to remove barriers of one sort or another, and certainly not destroy these things. That was the great tragedy of urban renewal, that so much was destroyed, and lots of cities simply haven't recovered from it. It's taken New York a long time to recover. It's healing itself now, New York City. Newark, not at all yet. Cities can destroy themselves beyond a point of no return, if they just become inert and dumb.

INTERVIEWER: By trying to copy ideas from elsewhere rather than building on what's unique about them and growing their own ideas?

JACOBS: And valuing the ideas of their own people.

Small hint for those who have yet to wake up to the fun of thinking about cities: Cities equal consciousness, writ on a very big scale. Which means that when someone as insightful as Jacobs is talking about convention centers and neighborhoods, she's also being a philosopher of mind.

And a tart and down-to-earth one she was: Reading this interview, you'll get a taste for how Jacobs saw cities and economies as evolved, organic things. (You may also get a sense of how exciting what was once thought of as "ecological thinking" can be.) Jacobs is forever setting her subjects in larger contexts -- yet she does so without resorting to religion. Not that I have anything against resorting to religion, of course.

I wrote an appreciation of Jane Jacobs back here. Zompist does a first-class job of explicating Jacobs' vision of cities and economies.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at May 23, 2007




Comments

Jane Jacobs is being thrown out the window in New York City in one of the largest/most corrupt land deals in history so called "atlantic yards" in Brookly -demapping streets, superblocks and all that crap.

Posted by: me on May 23, 2007 12:26 PM



Only tangentially related: I went yesterday to this event: , where i've encountered unexpected controversial discussion on the future of design of our courthouses.
Specifically from Mr.Paul Byard; never heard about him before (shame on me! never went to Ivy L.school) - this is the first reference I found of him on google. Apparently, a Director of Historic Preservation prefers NOT to preserve and refurbish the courthouse built by Cass Gilbert, and he wouldn't mind it converted to condos.

I might do a post about the panel: it was that interesting.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 23, 2007 1:07 PM



Sorry, forgot to add the link to the event itself: http://aiany.org/calendar/event.php?id=1004280

Posted by: Tatyana on May 23, 2007 1:11 PM



Speaking of architecture, evolvement of the cities and historic preservation: look what's happening in Afghanistan, to the "medieval city of Herat". Narcotecture!

Posted by: Tatyana on May 23, 2007 3:35 PM



Interesting post and comments to the post!

It seems to me that both the Atlantic Yards project and the Columbia University expansion (that was linked to by Tatyana) are essentially early 21st Century versions of the 1950's urban renewal projects that Jane Jacobs so roundly criticized. (As mentioned in a previous comment to a similar post a while back, I think the plans for Ground Zero also fit into this category.)

Supporters of these kinds of projects, however, have learned how to co-op the Jacobs vocabulary, though. Thus the process has morphed into "Robert Moses, version 2.0."

(I'm in the process of trying to write an article about the recent Robert Moses "revival." The working title is "Moses vs. Jacobs and Defining Anti-Urbanism Down.")

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on May 23, 2007 11:20 PM






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