Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Jane Jacobs passed away this morning in a Toronto hospital. She was 89.

In 1961, when Modernism's vendetta against urban civilization was in full swing (when Winnipeg's long-lost Market Square, City Hall and dozens of other treasures, were slated for demolition), Jane Jacob's book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was released. This book turned conventional "clutter-removing" urban planning on it's head, and provided generations of people with the language to say what they had always sensed deep down, but could never express: Why some streets, neighborhoods and cities are wonderful places, and why some are not.

In addition to having an immeasurable effect on the world of urban planning since the 1960's, Jacobs --an uncredentialed stay-at-home mom-- saved the neighborhoods of downtown Manhattan and Toronto by leading the successful oppositions to the Lower Manhattan Expressway, and later on, the Spadina Expressway.

As someone who spends perhaps a little too much time obsessing over urban theory, I find that the conditions for success always comes back to the four principles of a healthy city that Jacobs outlined 45 years ago:
1) The need for primary mixed uses
2) The need for small blocks
3) The need for aged buildings
4) The need for concentration

Thank you, Mrs. Jacobs, for working so hard to successfully save the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan and downtown Toronto, so that decades later, young people like myself can visit and enjoy them. Thank you, too, for inspiring us to fight for our own neighborhoods, in whichever cities they may be.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, she saved Manhattan

3:40 PM  

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