“The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets, the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-located parks that can thus give back grace and delight to their neighborhoods instead of vacuity” jane jacobs
Jane Jacobs was an activist based in the city of New York whose writings inspired generations of urban planners, architects, politicians, and activists all over the world.
Although she had no formal studies in urban planning, she went deep on subjects such us how cities work, evolve, and fail.
The impact of her ideas was so big that are setting today the basis of how we should think the cities of tomorrow.
The Future of Urban Planning
Jacobs wrote about economy, social interactions and urbanism.
She observed how cities work as an integrated system that evolves over time according to their functions and dynamism. She promoted higher density in cities, short blocks, local economies, and mixed uses.
A believer of neighborhood activism, Jacobs encouraged city dwellers to have a saying in the decision-making of their own cities.
Her continuous activism helped stop the expansion of expressways by discouraging the car-centered approach to urban planning.
In her writings she highlights the importance of public spaces, urban design, parks, street life, and self-organization.
Jane Jacob’s: Big Ideas:
Eyes on the street
“…The sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity”
Social capital builds up thanks to neighbours shared efforts. Their everyday interactions weave a network of relationships between them based on trust, work, and resilience when it is most needed.
The generators of diversity
: “Dull, inert cities, It is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves”
Four factors in urban design help to achieve this:
- Mixed uses: A mixture of all kinds of residences, workplaces, and shops brings people out to live the city at all times of the day.
- Aged buildings: Rundown buildings provide cheap space for new business and other low- or no -profit enterprises.
- Small blocks: A denser street network means more opportunities for retail and more chances for people to meet their neighbors.
- Population Density: it is key that the number population remains high in a small area to provide enough use for a city’s streets, parks, and enterprises.
Form still follows function
urban design has to be smart and the city has to work as a whole. People use the city in many different ways so it has to serve those functions.
Instead of relying on imports, urban economies should grow providing diverse local production.
All new work is added to fragments of older works. If the existing work in a local economy functions in an excellent way, there are many more opportunities to add new work, innovate and recombine in different ways to make it even better.
Make many little plans
If a neighborhood is diverse it means that there are many different people that are pursuing their own little plans individually and collectively. This increases the success of a city in its everyday streets, its economy, and its livability.
“The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets, the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-located parks that can thus give back grace and delight to their neighborhoods instead of vacuity”
Cities as organized complexity
cities should function in an integrated way, like ecosystems. When their citizens are organized as a community the dynamic inter-relationships of systems, processes, of self-organization enriches the city as a whole.
Nothing better than an interested citizen!. They are the ones that understand urban complexity without the technical view or professional training. Everyday users of the city learn by living and experiencing it freely.
Here are some of Jane Jacob’s best selling books that you should read to learn more about her work!
The Death And Life Of Great American Cities
Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs
Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs
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