While I was distracted by my birthday I was sad to hear yesterday that author, activist, and thinker Jane Jacobs died yesterday in Toronto at the age of 89. Although her obituary in today’s Post is good, the New York Times piece is longer and does a better job explaining her life and ideas. I […]
I recently published a commentary in the open access journal Urban Planning, which will appear in a forthcoming special issue on “Paradigm Shifts in Urban Planning.” The commentary’s title is a reference to Jane Jacobs’s famous book, and while several articles have used a similar formulation, I realized only after the article went to press that […]
Cities are complex, so they can be easily seen in different ways. The same urban block can be viewed as blighted, sustainable, congested, or a historic asset—all depending on who you ask. The fundamental importance seeing means that at the heart of graduate programs in urban planning are courses in observation—sometimes called “research methods”—the survey, the […]
In the acknowledgements section at the end of his book, The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City, author Alan Ehrenhalt demurred he is “no Jane Jacobs” but says he followed her advice for researching cities, namely to study them through close personal observation using a minimum of preconceptions. The results of this […]
Washington, D.C., Boston, Detroit and Beyond When I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, I developed an interest in urban history. For my thesis I studied an early urban urban renewal project in the city, the Gratiot Area Redevelopment Project. Since then, I’ve sought out books on the cities I’ve lived, first Washington, […]
If a contemporary economist views the city as “an absence of distance between people and firms,” Richard Sennett thinks the contrasts and conflict cities produce inspire innovation and drive their economies. Unfortunately, for too long urban planners have been stifling such conflict through their idealistic plans and heavy-handed regulations. But just what would it look like to create an “architecture of justice” that enriches urban life and convinces urban residents to live with less? And what are planners to do without their beloved regulations?
All too often when I tell people I am studying urban planning, my statement is met by a blank stare. Some will mumble something about a city they’ve been to, or admit they don’t know much about it. Urban planning’s lack of visibility extends to the web, where there is a depressing lack of good […]