Sunday, August 01, 2004
* What Would Jane Jacobs Do?
It's not a bad idea in almost any urban design situation to ask what Jane Jacobs would do. Her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was the antidote to all the experts and specialists who ruined urban design — and who continue to challenge it in the form of specializations such as traffic engineering and construction financing.
Jacobs realized that an urbanist must be a generalist rather than a specialist. And her "expertise" came not from graduate school but from personal observation and experience. She realized that reason must be tempered by experience, intuition and common sense (which is reason tempered by intuition). As my friend Douglas Duany says, "For intuition, rationality is the expression and presentation of the idea."
That's not to say that Jacobs is perfect — she's still human, after all. And like all humans, she has her preferences.
I'm a Classicist. Jacobs is more Romantic in nature. She likes medieval planning, and small-scale efforts.
Her disciples have extended this into a universal law that big-scale planning can not succeed. There are too many examples of big planning, from Rome and Paris to Savannah and the MacMillan Commission Plan for Washington, to allow that rule to stand as a universal law rather than a preference of temperament or character.
In a situation like the current one at Yankee Stadium, there is no alternative to big-scale planning, because the problem itself is so big. The best solution might be a master plan or mapping that is allowed to develop over time with many builders and architects, but at the root of that solution is still a large-scale plan.
To put it another way, how do those who think everything is to be done by small-scale tinkering suggest we deal with the current problems of massive greyfield sites, or the tabula rasa remains of disastrous Urban Removal?
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Architecture gravity vs position transforms mass and elevation vs parallel or vertical structure stress and mass. Newtons Law of gravity geometrics at it,s best is the best defination for WWJJD genius.
Posted by: William Gipson at Nov 6, 2004 3:29:59 AM