Monday, 19 January 2015

The quote of the week. Jane Jacobs.1961

Today: a classic Jane Jacobs on sidewalks.

"Reformers have long observed city people loitering on busy corners, hanging around in candy stores and bars and drinking soda pops on stoops, and have passed a judgement, the gist of which is: 'This is deplorable! If these people had decent homes and a more private or bosky outdoor place, they would't be on the street!'
This judgement represents a profound misunderstanding of cities. It makes no sense than to drop in at a testimonial banquet in a hotel and conclude that if these people had wives who could cook, they would give their parties at home."

Jacobs, Jane, The death and life of American cities, The Modern Library, New York, 1993, 1961. p72

Jane Jacobs writes one of the most simple and straightforward comments on public space. Jacobs is famous for her analysis of cities and their economies, but more so for her rivalry with Robert Moses and her critique of his plans for New York. Her book has had repercussions in planning, architecture and education throughout the world, but has been ignored repeatedly by the practice of planning through the last five decades. The use of sidewalks is inherent to the street and varies through each city's cultural context, but the active use of the sidewalk is a pattern that appears throughout different cultures. An empty sidewalk normally equates with a city that is more dependent on the car, where functions are spread in different zones of the city. A sidewalk that is populated, whatever the activities are, corresponds with a city that caters for different functions at walkable distance, encouraging people to not only go from A to B but to also gather, meet and stay on the street.

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