Sunday, May 24, 2009

Jane Jacobs and New Urbanism

Jane Jacobs Stock Pictures, Royalty-free Photos & Images - Getty ...
Paul Goldberger:

The term mixed use, which started as a sharp-eyed writer's observation of what underlies an organic urban fabric, has become a developer's mantra. Indeed, who could have envisioned the day when politicians and developers trying to sell New York on a gigantic football stadium beside the Hudson River would propose surrounding it with shops and cafes so that they could promote it as an asset to the city's street life? 

When that happened in 2004---and I heard people trying to sell the stadium as enriching street life---I knew the age of Jane Jacobs had entered a new phase, the phase that comes when radical ideas move into the mainstream and can be corrupted by those who claim to follow them. In the 21st century, the danger is not with those who oppose Jane Jacobs, but with those who claim to follow her.

She didn't have much patience with the New Urbanists, whose philosophy of returning to pedestrian-oriented cities would seem to owe a lot to Jacobs. But she found the New Urbanists hopelessly suburban, and once said to me, with a rhyming cadence worthy of Muhammed Ali, 'They only create what they say they hate.'

...I think of her less as showing us a physical model for cities that we need to copy and more as providing a model for skepticism.

"Uncommon Sense: Remembering Jane Jacobs, the 20th century's most influential city critic," by Paul Goldberger, The American Scholar, Autumn, 2006 (emphasis added).

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