Saturday, April 29, 2006

why I like jane jacobs

by now there are a million obits and tributes to jane jacobs, all better than anything I can write about her. so let me just list a few things I like about her work, her vision and her personality, that are sometimes absent from the discourse:
  • she never trained as an urban planner. she was "a theorist who opposed most theories." her ideas were derived from observation and common sense, rather than grand utopian/dystopian visions of future cities. as a blogger with no formal training in the subject I chose to write about it, its hard not to feel at least a little kinship with that perspective.
  • like all great things in life, diversity was paramount.
  • she fought robert moses, and she won.
  • she reduced cities to managable, understandable components - blocks - without being reductionist. she was able to explain complex ecosystems in a way that any layperson could understand. she made the byzantine intimate.

The New York Times' Blocks column had a fitting epitaph:

The owner of the Art of Cooking, Kate Humphrey, arrived at work to find several bouquets on the doorstep of No. 555 [Jane Jacob's old address].

One, a mixture of lilies and daisies and other springtime flowers, carried this unsigned message: "From this house, in 1961, a housewife changed the world."


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