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, The Death and Life of American Cities, p. 3.
This is one of the first ten works I read at the start of my career in architecture. I still have the original paperback copy which I bought in 1980 for $6.50 at the university bookstore. I had it spiral-bound at Kinko’s some years ago, preserving all pages together complete with layers of scribblings and notes made over succeeding years. Fifty-three years after its publication I still return to its pages to highlight and debate its most important points, and lucid ideas. I have never read the book cover to cover, but I have never really put it down, either. The book opens with the passage quoted above. It contains a crushing salvo and an enormous boast.
But look at what we have built… Low-income projects that become worse centers of delinquency, vandalism and general social hopelessness than the slums they were supposed to replace. Middle-income housing projects which are truly marvels of dullness and regimentation, sealed against any buoyancy or vitality of city life. Luxury housing projects that mitigate their inanity, or try to, with a vapid vulgarity. Cultural centers that are unable to support a good bookstore. Civic centers that are avoided by everyone but bums, who have fewer choices of loitering place than others. Commercial centers that are lack-lustre imitations of standardized suburban chain-store shopping. Promenades that go from no place to nowhere and have no promenaders. Expressways that eviscerate great cities. This is not the rebuilding of cities. This is the sacking of cities.
She had me at page 3. The second quote is the middle paragraph on the following page. It represents a devastating critique of the Eisenhower years (in office January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961). America had won the war and then… this!
According to Jacbos, ‘Large is Beautiful’:
[T]he fact is that big cities are natural generators of diversity and prolific incubators of new enterprises and ideas of all kinds. Moreover, big cities are the natural economic homes of immense numbers and ranges of small enterprises.
And again we find that bigness has all the advantages in smaller settlements. Towns and suburbs, for instance, are natural homes for huge supermarkets and for little else in the way of groceries, for standard movie houses or drive-ins and for little else in the way of theater. There are simply not enough people to support further variety, although there may be people (too few of them) who would draw upon it were it there. Cities, however, are the natural homes of supermarkets and standard movie houses plus delicatessens, Viennese bakeries, foreign groceries, art movies, and so on, all of which can be found coexisting, the standard with the strange, the large with the small. Wherever lively and popular parts of cities are found, the small much outnumber the large… these small enterprises would not exist somewhere else, in the absence of cities. Without cities, they would not exist.
For Jacobs the beauty of the ‘big city’ lies in the sheer immensity of ‘small things’ that are able to spring up and prosper in that huge incubator and nowhere else. The logic seems flawless. With this preamble, Jacobs launches into a four-chapter review of what she considers to be the primary shapers of city life. The method could not be simpler. Any initial doubts that the discussion will be dominated by economic analysis soon vanishes:
The conditions that generate city diversity are quite easy to discover by observing places in which diversity flourishes and studying the economic reasons why it can flourish in these places…
To generate exuberant diversity in a city’s streets and districts, four conditions are indispensable:
1. Mixed primary uses (Chapter 8)
2. Short blocks (Chapter 9)
3. Old buildings (Chapter 10)
5. Concentration of people, including residents (Chapter 11)
The necessity for these four conditions is the most important point this book has to make. In combination, these create effective economic pools of use… ALL four in combination are necessary to generate city diversity; the absence of any one of the four frustrates a district’s potential.
[150 – 151; emphasis mine]
I think by far the most important question about planning cities is this: How can cities generate enough mixture among uses—enough diversity—throughout enough of their territories, to sustain their own civilization?
[379; emphasis mine]]
Economic and social mixing—it is a big melting pot. The two key elements in Jane Jacobs’ urbanism present a version of American urbanism rendered in stars and stripes: the American civilization. The prescription is equal parts physical (short blocks, old buildings) and people-driven (mixed use, high density). The measurements are less precise because the vision is so all-encompassing.
2| A Diversity of Mixed Uses
Jacobs defines two different types of diversity: primary and secondary. It has echoes of Lou Kahn’s served and servant spaces. Or mall planning. There are the anchor stores that are the big attraction and then there are all the small boutiques that feed from the frenzy.
It should be clear by now that I am discussing two different kinds of diversity. The first, primary uses, are those which, in themselves, bring people to a specific place because they are anchorages. Offices and factories are primary uses. So are dwellings. Certain places of entertainment, education and recreation are primary uses. To a degree… so are many museums, libraries and galleries, but not all.
Secondary diversity is a name for the enterprises that grow in response to the presence of primary uses, to serve the people the primary uses draw. If this secondary diversity serves single primary uses… it is innately inefficient.
Yet, what Jacobs is really after is putting people on the street at all different times of the day and night. This is the baseline of her analysis. Whether we call it ‘mix’, ‘effectiveness’, or ‘diversity’ matters little. What matters is having people on the street.
The desirability of segregating dwelling from work has been so dinned into us that it takes an effort to look at real life and observe that residential districts lacking mixture with work do not fare well in cities.
There is only one aspect of the classification of ‘primary uses’ that may prove difficult to conceptualize. We can all see a hospital acting as the anchorage for a ‘hospital district’. However, Jacobs sees the need for a ‘mix of primary uses’ in order to achieve diversity. Thus, counted among the obvious primary uses (hospitals, concert halls, the right type of museums) is another less straight forward primary use: residential buildings. Not just one, but all the residential buildings taken together for any one given district are to be read as a single ‘primary use’.
The dwellings of a district (like any other use of the land) needs to be supplemented by other primary uses so people on the streets will be well spread through the hours of the day, for the economic reasons explained in Chapter Eight.
The reason for planning, then, is so that people will be on the streets at all times of night and day. This is yet another of the many common sense pronouncements in the work backed almost exclusively by Jacobs’ keen observations. With Jacobs it is always about the urbanism: she sees the city in terms of the people on the streets, not the cars or the buildings. Here Jacobs is challenging several planning paradigms all at once. First, she insists that the method includes making the effort to ‘look at the city’ as the object of study. Second, she lays bare the fact that many planning principles—holy cows, really—are not backed up by observation (measurement and proof). Further, that when these dictums are put to rigorous analysis they fail miserably. Finally, that the exclusionary zoning of the post-1915 era lies at the root of many of the Modern problems in the contemporary city. Yes, it was once necessary to separate and regulate noxious and toxic uses from residential districts. But clearly the exercise has been taken to an extreme and must be reversed. That sounds acceptable today when the practice has become more widespread (although the transformation is far from over). But fifty years ago Jacobs was shouting heresy.
3| The Neighborhood & District (short blocks & old buildings)
One example of the constituting elements of the city Jacobs observes, yet doesn’t appear interested in quantifying, is the urban ‘district’ or quartier. While this urban artifact is clearly palpable to Jacobs, no attempt is made to define it boundaries or measure it in some other way. Still, it is a presence invoked everywhere in support of the central arguments being presented:
Nor is the diversity that is important for city districts by any means confined to profit-making enterprises and retail commerce.
[148; emphasis mine]]
[In the Bronx…] something is wrong with their districts; something is lacking to catalyze a district population’s ability to interact economically and help form effective pools of use.
[149; emphasis mine]]
The district, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible, must serve more than one primary function.
[150; emphasis mine]]
The district must mingle buildings that vary in age.
[150; emphasis mine]]
[A] city district should be able to realize its best potential, wherever that may be.
[151; emphasis mine]]
[T]he absence of any one of the four frustrates a district’s potential.
[151; emphasis mine]
Introducing the analogy of the district as the chess board, and its primary uses as the key chess pieces, Jacobs tears into an analysis of what one is tempted to call the Carnegie Hall District:
Carnegie Hall, on West Fifty-seventh Street in New York, is a striking example of [an urban chess piece or] a primer. It has worked remarkably well for its street in spite of the serious handicap of too-long blocks. The presence of Carnegie Hall, which brings intensive use to the street by night, generated in time the presence of another use that needs night business—two motion-picture theatres. And because Carnegie Hall is a music center, it generated the presence of many small music, dance and drama studios and recital rooms. All this is mixed and woven with residences—two hotels and many apartments close by, which have all kinds of tenants, but notably a great many who are musicians and teachers of music. The street works by day because of small office buildings, and large office buildings to east and west, and finally because the double-shift use is able to support secondary diversity that has, in time, become an attraction too. The time spread of users is of course stimulating to restaurants, and here is a whole gamut: a fine Italian restaurant, a glamorous Russian restaurant, a sea-food restaurant, an expresso house, several bars, an Automat, a couple of soda fountains, a hamburger house. Between and among the restaurants you can buy rare coins, old jewelry, old or new books, very nice shoes, art supplies, remarkably elaborate hats, flowers, gourmet foods, health foods, imported chocolates. You can buy or sell thrice-worn Dior dresses and last year’s minks, or even an English sports car.
In this case, Carnegie Hall is a vital chessman, working in concert with other chessmen. The most ruinous plan that could be devised for this entire neighbourhood would be to destroy Carnegie Hall and replace it with another office building. This was precisely what was about to happen, as an accompaniment to New York’s decision to take all its most impressive, or potentially impressive, cultural chessmen out of play and segregate them in a planning island called the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Carnegie Hall was saved by a hair, owing to stubborn citizen pressure politics, although it will no longer be the home of the New York Philharmonic, which is going to decontaminate itself from the ordinary city.
[167 – 8]
It’s all there including the process of ‘decontamination’. Diversity of ‘primary mixed uses’—the concert hall, the office buildings and the residences—leading to an accretion over time of ‘secondary diversity’—the hotels, the restaurants, and the cornucopia of neighbourhood shops. All work symbiotically supporting one another and spilling people on the street at all times of day and night making for a happy horde providing the vitality (Life) to the district. Rip out the heart—the primary uses—and you get “the pitiful kind of planning” (Death). It’s just that simple. Modern zoning ripped the residential out of the downtowns, and now we can see the downtowns dying. Jacobs is not about to complicate things by quantifying the number of people needed on the sidewalks, or the amount of time they must remain in the streets in order reach the threshold of “diversity”. However, they should be walking on ‘short blocks,’ by which she means to criticize the 800 and 900 foot long blocks the Commissioner’s Plan for Manhattan (1811).
No neighbourhood or district, no matter how well established, prestigious or well heeled, and no matter how intensely populated for one purpose, can flout the necessity for spreading people through [out the] time of day without frustrating its potential for generating diversity.
This point is unassailable. Jacobs would seem inclined to sum it all up with a single idea—put the people on the street. It still makes all the sense in the world 53 years later. The hordes of humanity walking the sidewalks of the Big Apple make New York City the great city it is. And while I prefer mixing it up with strangers on the sidewalks of The Village, that does not take away from the experience of finding them on mid-town or down-town sidewalks. In the ensuing decades, as cities were flooded by automobiles and civil engineers came to dominate city bureaucracies, many found it necessary to formulate a corollary to this principle: make the streets for people (not cars).
4| High Density
Another sign of the times is that Jacobs can reference ‘high density’ without having to worry about mega-density of the 60-storey towers. Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis was famously hideous, but the buildings were just 11 storeys high. The density was 50 units to the acre. Mega-densities were still not contemplated and office towers were 10 years in the offing when The Death and Life hit the booksheves. The Seagram Building (1958) on Fifth Avenue was considered a masterpiece of Modern architecture. Its architect Mies van der Rohe a Master builder (Peter Blake, 1963). No one appreciated the fact that it had opened the flood gates to taller, bigger, cheaper knock-off versions to come.
CONCENTRATION OF PEOPLE, INCLUDING RESIDENTS
In San Francisco, the district of highest dwelling densities—and highest coverage of residential land with buildings—is North Beach-Telegraph Hill. This is a popular district that has spontaneously and steadily unslummed itself in the years following the Depression and the Second World War. San Francisco’s chief slum problem, on the other hand, is a district called the Western Addition, a place that has steadily declined and is now being extensively cleared. The Western Addition (which at one time, when it was new, was a good address) has a dwelling-unit density considerably lower than North Beach-Telegraph Hill’s
Jacobs is writing fully ten years before the big fight to stop the construction of the Bank of America ‘Black’ Tower in San Francisco. That neighbourhood-busting edifice raised the public profile of then Director of Planning Alan Jacobs (no relation) and his British collaborator Donald Appleyard. It represented a real threat to the neighborhoods of San Francisco. A threat delivered as is plainly in view if one moves about the financial district in San Francisco, and pretty much any block along Market Street. The towers have decimated entire districts in that city in exchange for making a few landlords a lot of money. Yet, Market Street and the rest of the streets of San Francisco are in shambles—more Galbraith, this time on the opposite coast. There is no denying the quality of the neighbourhoods in North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill and Washington Square. But there is also no denying that in the 30 years that I have been visiting San Francisco the trend in the city has been Death—not Life. Many fine places abound. However, the macro trend is clear: tear down the old to make room for the really big new. I wonder if Jacobs would agree that beyond a certain point, more density is just too-much-density. Vancouverism drove up the price of land 12-times in 40 years. No telling what is happening in San Francisco and NYC.
It is hard, or impossible, to generalize about such districts precisely because they are, themselves, so little “generalized” or standardized in their groupings. This very capriciousness and diversity of the components is one of the most important, and most ignored, facts about density averages in successful districts.
Jacobs’s great accomplishment was arriving at the realization that data needed to be collected in the first place. Here is a re-grouping of the density data she assembled from tapping municipal authorities nation wide (the numbers report net units per acre):
15 — 24 Brooklyn spots in decay
30 — 45 row house neighbourhoods in trouble
40 — North Philadelphia slums
45 — 74 Brooklyn Heights (dropping-off/in trouble)
21 — 40 Roxbury
45 — 75 Red Hook
55 — 60 Western Addition, San Francisco
75 — 124 Brooklyn Heights (remainder)
80 — 100 Rittenhouse Square; Philadelphia
80 — 140 San Francisco North Beach-Telegraph Hill
125 — 174 Brooklyn Heights (heart)
125 — 174 midtown East Side (most fashionable)
124 — 174 Greenwich Village (most fashionable)
175 — 254 Yorkville
+ 255 — Greenwich Village pocket containing stable, old, unslummed Italian community
275 — Boston North End
I believe the North End of Boston in the 1950s was also the ‘unslummed Italian community.’ If not Italian, then Irish. The numbers are meant to support Jacobs’ thesis. However, these are the ‘early returns’ and a lot more work will be done in the decades following The Death and Life. A good deal of that work directly inspired by the little yellow book.
Today, ranking density by building type is matter-of-fact. Shown in parenthesis below are the measures of ‘gross density’ for the most common building types. These include the share of the public right of way needed to access and service the built form. If the streets and the sidewalks are important, then they should be included in the density calculations. Furthermore, if the requirement for small blocks, for example, is to be part and parcel of human scale urbanism, then it will lower density numbers when these include the fronting portion of the right-of-way. Thus, because they include 50% of the fronting street space, gross density measures appear to be about 30% smaller than net density numbers. However, both numbers measure the same built form:
9—30 *urban cottages (6 — 20)
75—105 walk-up apartments (50 — 70)
60—120 *row & courtyard houses (40 — 80)
130+ towers and hi-rises (100+)
Chapter 11 takes the issue of density head-on making the case for high density as opposed to overcrowding; pointing out the weaknesses of the housing projects that achieve high residential densities but deliver barren environs; yet steering clear of technical matters of the classification of buildings by type. Playing to her strong suit Jacobs’s criticism of exclusionary zoning is decisive. It is not just the mixing of uses in the districts that contributes to the sense of place, the vibrant district will also present a mix of building types. However, how much density a given building type can achieve is more or less a known quantity in the industry. The ensuing decades would produce any number of studies of ‘density and built form.’ All of them, I would argue, inspired by the analysis of The Death and Life. Something new was in the air.
Thus, achieving density per se has proved too narrow a focus for the Vancouverism, for example. A more complex matrix is necessary. The asterisk next to the building types listed above identifies a characteristic of human scale urban form that Jacob’s appears to have overlooked: residential units achieving high density, while retaining direct access to the sidewalk or a shared private court. In other words, the asterisk identifies building types that put ‘doors on the street.’ If a critical mass of density is necessary to sustain the vitality of a district, then as the Vancouverism has taught us, not all high-density built form successfully promotes ‘good’ urbanism.
Jacobs tells us that senior planners whom she contacted betrayed no interest in measuring densities achieved in existing neighbourhoods. Their focus was solely on the future with little regard for the past as a source of workable models and solutions.
Planners today tell me that they fully expect their projections will be meaningless fifty years from now (their estimate appears overly optimistic when it comes to towers-and -skytrain urbanism). Then, when I inquire about the ‘timeless characteristics of cities’ they roll their eyes. When I point out that aspects of human behaviour and sense perception have not changed over 10,000 years, and may be expected to remain more or less the same for another 10 millennia, they don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. AS professionals we really are that deeply invested in our separate silo realities.
5| Urbanism 2.0
It is a mark of a great rhetorician that when she is about to express a controversial opinion, she pivots and changes the subject:
When we deal with cities we are dealing with life at its most complex and intense. Because this is so, there is a basic aesthetic limitation on what can be done with cities: A city cannot be a work of art.
The point that is being avoided here is not whether a city can rival a Picasso. Clearly, these are different types of things. No, the point is whether or not city spaces can support aesthetic human sense experience. I know the answer is ‘yes’ because I have sought out and found it—even along Barrow, Bedford, Commerce, and LeRoy streets in Greenwich Village.
The fly in the ointment of the American City is the paradox of achieving high levels of social and economic functioning, on the one hand, while failing to achieve high levels of aesthetic quality on the other. All that power and all that wealth and yet…
Can a city achieve high levels of social and economic functioning while falling short of providing the simple pleasures of life? Like a quiet street, a bustling square, or a memorable street end vista? Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic for the New York Times (1973–1997), put it more bluntly. He put the issue front and center b referencing Canadian John Kenneth Galbraith’s distillation of the American city into a pair of opposites: “private luxury and public squalor.” The work containing the memorable phrase was Affluent Society published in 1958, just three years before The Death and Life.
Over the arc of the last 53 years we can see most of the places we call home not even scoring 2 out of 3 on the test (social, economic and aesthetic). Firenze—a place on occasion living under the heel of tyrants—achieves all that the Carnagie District boasts, plus one more. It presents with human scale urbanism—and has done so for centuries. Aesthetics are a palpable part of the urbanism of Firenze, and countless other Renaissance and Baroque towns in Europe and the Americas.
In an odd passage Jacobs tackles this issue head-on by quoting Elbert Peets, the co-author of a remarkable book: The New American Vitruvius (1927). Penned with Berlin urbanist Werner Hegemann, the book included a full-page elevation of the Manhattan Municipal Building (McKim, Mead and White, 1914). The first tower to incorporate a New York City Subway station into its base, it fronts City Hall Park diagonally opposite the so-called ‘Cathedral of Commerce,’ the Woolworth Building (1913). Death and Life is silent on both. Yet, these are the very Modern icons that will grow in number until they dismember the North American downtowns over the next ten years in the offing.
Here is Elbert Peets speaking about the loss of social and aesthetic values in Washington DC:
It is my feeling that wrong principles motivate important aspects [of current Washington town planning]…
Briefly, what is happening is this: the government capital is turning away from the city; the government buildings are being concentrated together and separated from the buildings of the city. This was not L’Enfant’s idea. On the contrary, he made every effort to amalgamate the two, to make them serve each other. He distributed government buildings, markets, seats of national societies, academies, and State memorials at points of architectural advantage throughout the city, as if with the definite purpose of putting the impress of the national capital on every part. This was sound sentiment and sound architectural judgement.
From the Chicago Fair of 1893 came the architectural ideology that sees the city as a monumental court of honour sharply set off from a profane and jumbled area of “concessions.” … There is no evidence, in this procedure, of feeling for the city as an organism, a matrix that is worthy of its monuments and friendly with them … The loss is social, as well as aesthetic …
The first point to make about aesthetics and urbanism is not whether or not a city is a work of art—clearly these are two different types of things—but whether or not our aesthetic sense experience is being brought into play in the construction of the city. Do we have a special sense experience upon entering any of the various urban places that make a city?
It is clear to me that Jacobs would have been on-side with this assertion. Secondly, there is a long tradition that deals with planning or designing the city according to so-called artistic principles (Camillo Sitte, Vienna, 1889). Or more to the point, since the re-discovery of the classical texts in the Renaissance, it has been commonplace to assert that the same measures that are pleasing to our ears in music, can also please our eyes (Rudolph Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, 1949). It was a short step from there to rediscovering how the Romans and Greeks had applied that insight to the design of sculpture, painting, architecture and—important to our purpose here—town planning and urbanism.
Yet, there can be little doubt that in denying an ‘artistic’ side to urbanism the author is putting the ‘American’ into the title and content of the work. Urbanism in the United States makes too much use of gridded plans, lettered and numbered streets. Jacobs’s defence of the endless—and endlessly boring—19th century grid platting reminds us of this blind spot in American culture:
To bring even a chance for visual order to most such [gridiron] streets—and to districts in which such streets predominate—this basic contradiction of strong visual impressions has to be dealt with. I think this is what European visitors are getting at when they remark, as they often do, that the ugliness of [American] cities is owing to our gridiron street systems.
Jacobs focus on social functioning and economic vitality will miss important, concrete and measurable urban facts, including: the size and footprint of the ‘district’; the hierarchy of urban spaces including lanes, streets and squares; the surprisingly small set of building types that make the city, and their function defining the public realm; the symbiotic roles of monumental and vernacular construction; the street aspect ratio set by a cities position on the globe and the desire to shade the street (in hot climates), or maximize solar exposure (in cold climates). In other words, the measure and classification of the many and various pieces that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. When it comes to urbanism, the more telling fact may not be whether a city is a work of art, but rather the recognition that it is always a work in progress.
The real blow to the downtowns would arrive ten years later in the early 1970s as regional shopping malls, locating at the intersections of major highways in the suburban periphery, would siphon businesses away from the downtowns. Their response—to build parking structures—misidentified and failed to address the real problem.
People, who were though of pedestrians in human scale urbanism, were transforming into single-occupancy ‘cars’.
The purity of Jacobs’s approach—observation, analysis and synthesis—and her sharp-edged wit served to keep the critics at bay long enough for her ideas to infect a wide and grateful public.
Every city today—and this was also true back in 1961 when the book was published—is moving through cycles of Death and Life. In fact, they don’t even have to be great American cities to be seen riding these waves. The lessons of history—which Jacobs does not necessarily hold foremost in mind—teach us that each urban site moves through cycles of growth and decline. The causes are as varied and diverse as the choices made about where to go next. For it is not necessarily true that growth is always good, and decline must be avoided at all costs.
Yet, through it all, we see the values of urbanism remain more or less constant.
This fact alone guarantees that Jacobs can measure and record mixed uses, small blocks, old buildings, and density, that she could do this for any site, and she would be right every time. However, she will not be successful in her methods if she were to apply the same prescription to every urban site. Some sites will have too much mixed use, too many small blocks, not enough new buildings, and too much density. Or they may fall somewhere in between. Urbanism is a concrete and physical reality that we can observe, measure and quantify. What we do with that information depends on other internal and external factors.
Of course, it would be a mistake to rely on the free market economy would cure all evils. Else, Jacobs and the rest of us would have nothing left to write about.
City dwellers will have golden moments filled with joy and anticipation, when the urbanism all around them might appear to be in bloom. And they will wake up in other moments when the haze has lifted and they can fully appreciate for the first time the mistakes have been in their city over a prolonged period of time. In the case of Greenwich Village, it would appear as if Jacobs is focused on the coming invasion of high-rise towers, the tabula rasa approach that razes the old buildings to make room for the new. In 1961 that was the right call to make in Greenwich Village— Yet, she seems inured to the problems of the past. For example, the loss in Greenwich Villag of its village squares; the punching through of Eight and Seventh Avenues; and the renovation of houses and apartments to cover their entire site doing away with rear yards and gardens more than 100 years in existence.
A city is not a work of art, to be sure. However, we should guard against having an urban site ‘moving in the wrong direction’ create such a sense of urgency that we forget that every city can be host to any number of beautiful places. Or that we ascribe meaning to the places we call home. We speak about our house, our street, our neighborhood park, our grocery store. And with that language we reveal just how much of our selves we project into our urban environment. Better then that the reasons behind the choices we make in deciding about the nature of its construction not be limited to social and economic norms. Let us not forget to inject some joy and spontaneity into the urban project.