Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments Posted 05.11.10 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Alexandra Lange

Jane Jacobs Is Still Watching


I have been re-reading Jane Jacobs this week (not nearly as fun as re-reading Jane Austen, which might be the only thing Elena Kagan and I have in common), and despite my dislike of her beef with architects and planners, so many points seem strangely prescient. Like this:

We are the lucky possessors of a city order that makes it relatively simple to keep the peace because there are plenty of eyes on the street [Italics mine]. But there is nothing simple about that order itself, or the bewildering number of components that go into it. Most of these components are specialized in one way or another. They unite in their joint effect upon the sidewalk, which is not specialized in the least. That is its strength.

I have read this chapter, “The uses of sidewalks: safety,” tens of times, but this point seems to gather added relevance after the attempt to car bomb Times Square was foiled by a t-shirt vendor. It was not the hardened streetscape that stopped the explosion, a security camera that recorded suspicious activity, or a law enforcement officer that noticed something unusual, but a commercial version of the stoop-sitters that Jacobs says will keep the peace.

New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has been systematically remaking major intersections, like Broadway at Times Square, with pop-up plazas, areas of painted asphalt equipped with chairs and tables for instantaneous “park.” These were originally proposed as traffic calming measures, but they also add more eyes, and an extra measure of sidewalk ballet, to crowded areas that people previously had to push through as fast as their could. The plazas may actually provide more safety than a thousand oversize concrete planters. That was really Jacobs’s point. People make cities, not walls.

Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


MoMA's Modern Women


Who's Your Data?


Megapolitan America


An Atlas of Possibility


Roads to Rails



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




|
Share This Story



Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect's Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.
More >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Alexandra Lange

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

Design Research
Chronicle Books, 2010

More books by contributors >>