Among the first 10 books I read at the start of my career in architecture this one still stands as the odd ball. Fifty three years after its publication I return to its pages to highlight and debate its most important points. I have found recently that although Death and Life is much talked about, its principal thesis and ground-breaking assertions are not read much less understood. The book opens with crushing salvo and an enormous boast:
This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding. It is also, and mostly, an attempt to introduce new principles in city planning and rebuilding, different and even opposite from those now taught in everything from schools of architecture and planning to Sunday supplements and women’s magazines. My attack is not based on quibbles about rebuilding methods or hair-splitting about fashions in design. It is an attack, rather, on the principles and aims that have shaped modern, orthodox city planning and rebuilding.
Jane Jacobs, p. 3.
This post could be titled: “Ending the Middle East Conflict, Breathing Clean Air and Making Livable Cities”.
When cars in Asia, Europe and the Americas convert to electric power the consumption of fossil fuels will plummet; dependence on oil trading will end; and many many long-sought results will be triggered including clean air and the restructuring of local economies. The change will be of a scale as great as the French Revolution (ushering representational government), the Great Depression (restructuring the economy from horse-and-buggy to rubber-oil-and-steel), or the Second World War (implementing air flight, weapons of mass destruction, centralized planning and telecommunications).
The real question of course is whether it has to be as messy this time around, or whether we can make a major shift in our economy while managing unwanted and unforeseen consequences. As the award-winning documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car” shows how this change will revolutionize our economic and political power structure. It also shows how great the stakes are, representing too high a risk for the largest multi-nationals to join in without some grumbling. GM pulled its production model battery car from the market ten years ago. The giant opted for self preservation over innovation. The only conclusion we draw from this analysis is that our democracy will grow stronger when cars run on fuel they get from a thin solar panel stuck on the roof of the garage rather than from the competition of multi-nationals over dominance in trade, consolidation of power and influence over local politics. [Links to the documentary are provided below. If Sony Pictures has blocked viewing in your area, then you can read a synopsis by downloading the press kit here].
The ‘Cheesegrater’ London (Google Images).
The truth about developers: they are exploiting planning authority and ruining our cities.
The Guardian, September 2014
David Harvey HARDtalk at the BBC (2012)
A collection of 20 minute chats or Ted Talks by a wide cross-section of prominent contemporary figures.
photo: google image commons
Time magazine called it “Hong-couver” in the 1990s. Between Expo 1986 and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics planning in Vancouver took a turn for the worse building a tower-and-podium typology many hoped would make the city ‘world class’. However, as tower developers drive into the neighborhoods in search of cheap land a different Vancouver is being loudly proclaimed. Continue reading
What if the cars are not the problem? What if vehicular congestion, pollution, and environmental degradation are symptoms of bad urbanism, but not the cause? What if the greatest challenge facing urban sustainability are the towers and the freeways—the permanent structures and public investments—rather than the cars? Consider that the fleet changes over every 4 to 10 years making it possible to retrofit new technologies at a fast rate. Leading indicators like the taxi fleets have gone electric signalling a truly revolutionary change ahead. Towers and highways, on the other hand, will be with us for centuries to come inscribing patterns on the landscape—and in our social circles—that are much more difficult to break Continue reading
Aerial View: Florence, Italy