Tag Archives: Aggregation

restorm: Will Wiles attempts to deconstruct the legacy of “Saint Jane” Jacobs

Thanks to Storm Cunningham, Washington DC @restorm for the link.

Some crusty issues from this one commentator, Will Wiles, bursting and engaging with levels, biases, contradictions, established takes, whatever, in the considered effort to wake us up.

Apart from the fact that cities (as opposed to country towns like Dunedin?) are ‘live wild animals’, it does no harm to consider the urban environment as a dense web or series of interconnected (metaphorical) ‘rooms’, forming the diverse aggregation of human activity.

Various posts at What if? tangle with diversity, infrastructure, mixed use and spatial ideas, fully knowing the machine that drives formation of a spatial plan at DCC will be very far – frighteningly distant – from approaching contemporary urban theory and practice, including the practical weighty mass of real commerce and ethics.

The non application or watering down of ‘local’ discussion and full-blooded, full-bodied debate will be the risk to Dunedin and the region’s future, premised on a GIS mapping exercise that most probably will work like a parking diagram.

And we know what happened to city parking recently… Political decisions made at Council without adequate understanding of interconnectedness, at the business end of people dynamics. Just wait until this non thinking applies to the city as a whole. It’s coming. Start building your stealth bombers.

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### urbanophile.com 1 March 2011
Saint Jane by Will Wiles

Jacobs appealed to me because it chimed with what I saw in cities and what I liked about them – and the Nurbanists have no idea what this quality is. Their agenda for “neighbourhoods”, “contextuality”, “walkability”, is fundamentally anti-urban. These qualities aren’t necessarily bad in themselves – but combined in pursuit of the singular Nurbanist vision, they mean the vivisection of the city into un-urban cells.

The Pelican edition of Death and Life, with cover by Germano Facetti:

Wiles begins…
A spectre is haunting urbanism – the spectre of Jane Jacobs. The American-Canadian writer and activist died in 2006, but she continues to exert influence over the urban debate, primarily via that dreary federacy of messianic dovecote enthusiasts, the “New Urbanists”, who have taken her up as a kind of guiding prophet. Outside the ranks of the Kunstlers and Kriers, there is a great swath of architects, thinkers and writers on the city who have read Jacobs and hold her in high regard. With a touch of embarrassment, I should include myself in this latter category. Not being an architect, I was an auto-didact in urban theory. When I came across a Pelican edition of Jacobs’ best-known book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in a second-hand bookshop almost a decade ago, I had never heard of her. But I loved the Germano Facetti cover design, the back sounded interesting enough, and the price was right, so I took it home.

At that point, my reading on urban theory had been scattershot, based entirely in what I found in 2nd-hand bookshops: Corbu, Lewis Mumford, Thomas Sharp, Steen Eiler Rasmussen, an odd band who had given me all sorts of interesting ideas and imagery, but nothing very coherent. What they had in common, more or less, was that I didn’t really enjoy reading them all that much, and had mostly got through to the end in a spirit of patient self-improvement. I picked up Jacobs, expecting more of the same, and instead ploughed through it in a matter of days. If nothing else, she taught me that book-length urban theory could be hugely entertaining.
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-Will Wiles is a writer and Deputy Editor of Icon, a monthly architecture and design magazine.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

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