The Death and Life of Great American Cities – Jacobs

Goodreads | Amazon

This book is a classic. Jane Jacobs completed a massive feat for humanity; she ruthlessly observed, documented, and critiqued modern urban living from the street up.

Despite being a journalist, she has become the most influential figure in the field of Urban Planning. Over time, many of her observations have become the foundation of scientific studies which have confirmed her analysis.

While The Death and Life of Great American Cities is a must read for anyone interested in good urban living. Be warned, it’s decently long, but extremely rewarding.

However, I realise the majority won’t read this so rather, I would suggest reading my notes, the quotes and if you are interested this blog series on Good Urban Living.

The essence

  • Small blocks with frequent streets – this increases walkability and makes streets more vibrant, interesting, and safer.
  • Mixed primary-use – this supports more consistent street-life which makes streets safer and supports secondary-use small businesses (the foundation of culture).
  • Mix of building ages – this means a mix of building purpose, architectural styles, and ultimately, rental prices; all which further increases diversity and vibrancy of a neighbourhood.
  • Enough density, but not too much – enough to support vibrant neighbourhoods but not too much that can mean overcrowding, poorer living conditions, and overly large skyscrapers.

Notes

  • Seems to be saying similar things to Lynch about there being no such things as an “ideal city” only a city that is ideal for a certain people. That good city form, is an appropriate expression of human values and life.
  • Unlike Lynch, she is all for dense cities. Lynch, like other thinkers of his time, saw dense cities as growing beyond their means and becoming harmful. This view is still subconsciously held today as we think of the countryside as being more environmentally friendly. However, Jacobs sees things differently. She sees cities as being the most effective means of bringing large populations together to create good living. Her fight is for better cities, not smaller.
  • The great peril behind many of our urban planning mistakes is ego. Ego in thinking that we, the planners, know better than the people living in those places in the future. It is the rigid dogma that is instilled in our city plans that make them ultimately fail to meet their goal of better living.
  • Sidewalks are there to connect people and things, not just to be walked. They need to be safe and inspire connection.
  • Just as it is “idiotic” to build cities designed for easy crime, we build streets designed for easy speeding. Both cases have negative effects on human happiness.
  • A safe sidewalk will: have a clear delineation between public and private space, have private eyes with easy visible access to it, and have a fairly continuous stream of use.
  • An interesting walk is one where there are clearly signs of humanity. We feel comfortable when we see other people around, and at the least, signs that people occupy these places.
  • People need to feel ownership over their street. That they are the ones responsible for protecting it and keep it safe, not because they have to, but because it is their street.
  • Shopkeepers and local stores are great for keeping streets safe because they always are there, idly watching the street in between work.
  • We think of ideal apartment buildings as ones that are isolated from the street with trees and other obstractions, however, ironically the ideal is the opposite. We want apartments that overlook busy streets because it keeps them busy and safe. The busier our streets are (within reason) the more city life and culture they produce, with that comes safety.
  • Nobody has ever been violently mugged or rapped on Shibuya crossing.
  • That’s a beautiful benefit of good cities. The more people who actively use the public spaces, make them safe.
  • Don’t you get an eiri feeling when walking down a corridor of apartments; a long tunnel lit artifically, with no windows and no eyes watching. It feels spooky and somewhat dangerous, despite hundreds of doors being there. Without passive eyes looking through windows we lack a sense of safety.
  • The problem with the Veritcal Garden City is not that it is “bad” or that it “won’t work”. It may well, if done correctly, create a good environment for people within the vertical city. However, it adversely affects city life around the “vertical city”. It fortifies within it a bubble of city life, while isolating others outside the fort. Good city planning is not about isolating people, it’s about connection. Connection is the core ideal behind every city.
  • Vietnam makes it’s own street socializing places with it’s little blue chairs. On large french boulavards that are generally void of lifeliness, they spread little plastic chairs for people to stop and buy a coffee and some food. To sit on and people watch. This culture of makeshift stalls is what gives HCM such a lively, interesting, friendly feel. It’s what likely keeps the streets here relatively safe.
  • Also in vietnam, you have all the motorbike parking guards who are constant eyes on the street. This increases the safety of the streets.
  • Ways to increase the number of eyes on the streets include, houses whose windows overlook streets, commercial uses of streets, getting people out of their homes and walking on the streets (rather than driving). I feel the later is what keeps Japans streets safe, someone is always walking down every street in the cities.
  • Privacy and shared space is a tricky topic. Forcing people to formally share things often requires that they are all similar. White-middle-class people are happy to share things with other white-middle-class people.
  • There needs to be a clear balance between private and public. Public should be natural and casual, with low commitment and entanglement costs, allowing organic relationships to form.
  • Jacobs is arguing that city sidewalks are more than transport mechanisms, they are the lifeblood that gives vitality to our streets, that builds our communities, and rears our children.
  • In a “dream city” without streets, you would likely also have a city without culture. Culture is created by the seemingly trivial daily interactions that occur on our streets from pedestrians; not in our isolated apartment flats, or by ourselves in our sound-proofed cars.
  • For districts to work they need to be relatable to people. This can be aided by monuments that serve to symbolically assosciate with it. Streets should be networked together to form a interesting, differentiating, environment.
  • Mixed aged buildings creates mixed rental pricing in a single neighbourhood. This allows for more diversity of people as well as more diversity of small businesses. This diversity is what creates interesting and lively suburbs.
  • Through the effects of time mixed aged buildings are more varied in type and style which better supports mixed uses and hence constant neighbourhood activity.
  • 6 dwellings per acre is very low. Ten to twenty is semisuburbia.
  • 100 dwellings to the acre is on the low end for a diverse city but there is no absolute right density for a city.
  • Railroads, highways and single-use area edges creates chasms that people, and hence culture, generally fail to bridge.
  • Border-vacuums: Areas of high-density single-use create strong borders where they end which people and culture rarely cross.
  • City slum neighbourhoods can unslum themselves. However projects rarely do, because they loose the natural forces and benefits of being in a city, by being moved into a static catchment area for the poor and underprivileged.
  • Cars not only erode cities but also prevent neighbourhoods that need diversity and uplift from achieving it. Because the neighbourhood is lacking people need to drive for safety or to get to more interesting neighbourhoods. This auto-dependence means the neighbourhood falls into a negative feedback loop.
  • If you blanketly target automobile reduction then you will also destroy bus and truck routes, crippling your city.
  • To try to understand cities you have to treat them as complex systems, organised and interrelated complexity, not as simple systems.

Quotes

  • “But analogies as to what goes on in the brains of earnest and learned men, dealing with complex phenomena they do not understand at all and trying to make do with a pseudoscience, do have point. As in the pseudoscience of bloodletting, just so in the pseudoscience of city rebuilding and planning, years of learning and a plethora of subtle and complicated dogma have arisen on a foundation of nonsense.”
  • “the science of city planning and the art of city design, in real life for real cities, must become the science and art of catalyzing and nourishing these close-grained working relationships.”
  • ““Nobody cared what we wanted when they built this place. They threw our houses down and pushed us here and pushed our friends somewhere else. We don’t have a place around here to get a cup of coffee or a newspaper even, or borrow fifty cents. Nobody cared what we need. But the big men come and look at that grass and say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful! Now the poor have everything!’ ” This tenant”
  • “His aim was the creation of self-sufficient small towns, really very nice towns if you were docile and had no plans of your own and did not mind spending your life among others with no plans of their own.”
  • “As in all Utopias, the right to have plans of any significance belonged only to the planners in charge.”
  • “orthodox planning: The street is bad as an environment for humans; houses should be turned away from it and faced inward, toward sheltered greens. Frequent streets are wasteful, of advantage only to real estate speculators who measure value by the front foot. The basic unit of city design is not the street, but the block and more particularly the super-block. Commerce should be segregated from residences and greens. A neighborhood’s demand for goods should be calculated “scientifically,” and this much and no more commercial space allocated. The presence of many other people is, at best, a necessary evil, and good city planning must aim for at least an illusion of isolation and suburbany privacy. The Decentrists also pounded in Howard’s premises that the planned community must be islanded off as a self-contained unit, that it must resist future change, and that every significant detail must be controlled by the planners from the start and then stuck to. In short, good planning was project planning.”
  • When people say that a city, or a part of it, is dangerous or is a jungle what they mean primarily is that they do not feel safe on the sidewalks.”
  • Great cities are not like towns, only larger. They are not like suburbs, only denser. They differ from towns and suburbs in basic ways, and one of these is that cities are, by definition, full of strangers.
  • “To build city districts that are custom made for easy crime is idiotic. Yet that is what we do.”
  • “In some city areas—older public housing projects and streets with very high population turnover are often conspicuous examples—the keeping of public sidewalk law and order is left almost entirely to the police and special guards. Such places are jungles. No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal, casual enforcement of it has broken down.
  • “The second thing to understand is that the problem of insecurity cannot be solved by spreading people out more thinly, trading the characteristics of cities for the characteristics of suburbs.”
  • “This is something everyone already knows: A well-used city street is apt to be a safe street. A deserted city street is apt to be unsafe.”
  • “In settlements that are smaller and simpler than big cities, controls on acceptable public behavior, if not on crime, seem to operate with greater or lesser success through a web of reputation, gossip, approval, disapproval and sanctions, all of which are powerful if people know each other and word travels. But a city’s streets, which must control not only the behavior of the people of the city but also of visitors from suburbs and towns who want to have a big time away from the gossip and sanctions at home, have to operate by more direct, straightforward methods. It is a wonder cities have solved such an inherently difficult problem at all. And yet in many streets they do it magnificently.”
  • “I have made the daily ballet of Hudson Street sound more frenetic than it is, because writing it telescopes it. In real life, it is not that way.”
  • “of it is ostensibly utterly trivial but the sum is not trivial at all. The sum of such casual, public contact at a local level—most of it fortuitous, most of it associated with errands, all of it metered by the person concerned and not thrust upon him by anyone—is a feeling for the public identity of people, a web of public respect and trust, and a resource in time of personal or neighborhood need.”
  • “The absence of this trust is a disaster to a city street. Its cultivation cannot be institutionalized. And above all, it implies no private commitments.”
  • “Privacy is precious in cities. It is indispensable. Perhaps it is precious and indispensable everywhere, but most places you cannot get it. In small settlements everyone knows your affairs. In the city everyone does not—only those you choose to tell will know much about you. This is one of the attributes of cities that is precious to most city people, whether their incomes are high or their incomes are low, whether they are white or colored, whether they are old inhabitants or new, and it is a gift of great-city life deeply cherished and jealously guarded.”
  • “A service like this cannot be formalized. Identifications…questions…insurance against mishaps. The all-essential line between public service and privacy would be transgressed by institutionalization. Nobody in his right mind would leave his key in such a place.”
  • “Under this system, it is possible in a city street neighborhood to know all kinds of people without unwelcome entanglements, without boredom, necessity for excuses, explanations, fears of giving offense, embarrassments respecting impositions or commitments, and all such paraphernalia of obligations which can accompany less limited relationships.”
  • “They form precisely because they are by-the-way to people’s normal public sorties.”
  • “Word does not move around where public characters and sidewalk life are lacking.”
  • “Lowly, unpurposeful and random as they may appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city’s wealth of public life may grow.”
  • “spaces and equipment do not rear children. These can be useful adjuncts, but only people rear children and assimilate them into civilized society.”
  • “Why do children so frequently find that roaming the lively city sidewalks is more interesting than back yards or playgrounds? Because the sidewalks are more interesting. It is just as sensible to ask: Why do adults find lively streets more interesting than playgrounds?”
  • “Sidewalk width is invariably sacrificed for vehicular width, partly because city sidewalks are conventionally considered to be purely space for pedestrian travel and access to buildings, and go unrecognized and unrespected as the uniquely vital and irreplaceable organs of city safety, public life and child rearing that they are.”
  • “In short, Rittenhouse Square is busy fairly continuously for the same basic reasons that a lively sidewalk is used continuously: because of functional physical diversity among adjacent uses, and hence diversity among users and their schedules.”
  • “The perverts who completely took over Philadelphia’s Washington Square for several decades were a manifestation of this city behavior, in microcosm. They did not kill off a vital and appreciated park. They did not drive out respectable users. They moved into an abandoned place and entrenched themselves.”
  • “Any single, overwhelmingly dominant use imposing a limited schedule of users would have had a similar effect.”
  • “Superficial architectural variety may look like diversity, but only a genuine content of economic and social diversity, resulting in people with different schedules, has meaning to the park and the power to confer the boon of life upon it.”
  • “Parks intensely used in generalized public-yard fashion tend to have four elements in their design which I shall call intricacy, centering, sun and enclosure.”
  • “Yet neither of these parks is so complex in plan as all that. Intricacy that counts is mainly intricacy at eye level, change in the rise of ground, groupings of trees, openings leading to various focal points—in short, subtle expressions of difference. The subtle differences in setting are then exaggerated by the differences in use that grow up among them. Successful parks always look much more intricate in use than when they are empty.”
  • “Good small parks typically have a place somewhere within them commonly understood to be the center—at the very least a main crossroads and pausing point, a climax. Some small parks or squares are virtually all center, and get their intricacy from minor differences at their peripheries.”
  • “In short, if a generalized city park cannot be supported by uses arising from natural, nearby intense diversity, it must convert from a generalized park to a specialized park. Effective diversity of use, drawing deliberately a sequence of diversified users, must be deliberately introduced into the park itself.”
  • “City parks are not abstractions, or automatic repositories of virtue or uplift, any more than sidewalks are abstractions. They mean nothing divorced from their practical, tangible uses, and hence they mean nothing divorced from the tangible effects on them—for good or for ill—of the city districts and uses touching them.”
  • “Almost nobody travels willingly from sameness to sameness and repetition to repetition, even if the physical effort required is trivial.*”
  • “How big, in absolute terms, must an effective district be? I have given a functional definition of size: big enough to fight city hall, but not so big that street neighborhoods are unable to draw district attention and to count.”
  • “To be sure, a good city neighborhood can absorb newcomers into itself, both newcomers by choice and immigrants settling by expediency, and it can protect a reasonable amount of transient population too. But these increments or displacements have to be gradual. If self-government in the place is to work, underlying any float of population must be a continuity of people who have forged neighborhood networks. These networks are a city’s irreplaceable social capital. Whenever the capital is lost, from whatever cause, the income from it disappears, never to return until and unless new capital is slowly and chancily accumulated.”
  • “In the second place, wherever ethnically cohesive neighborhoods develop and are stable, they possess another quality besides ethnic identity. They contain many individuals who stay put.”
  • ““I have often amused myself,” wrote James Boswell in 1791, “with thinking how different a place London is to different people. They, whose narrow minds are contracted to the consideration of some one particular pursuit, view it only through that medium…But the intellectual man is struck with it, as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible.””
  • “Parks can easily—too easily—be thought of as phenomena in their own right and described as adequate or inadequate in terms, say, of acreage ratios to thousands of population. Such an approach tells us something about the methods of planners, but it tells us nothing useful about the behavior or value of neighborhood parks.”
  • “To generate exuberant diversity in a city’s streets and districts, four conditions are indispensable: 1. The district, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible, must serve more than one primary function; preferably more than two. These must insure the presence of people who go outdoors on different schedules and are in the place for different purposes, but who are able to use many facilities in common. 2. Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent. 3. The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones so that they vary in the economic yield they must produce. This mingling must be fairly close-grained. 4. There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people, for whatever purposes they may be there. This includes dense concentration in the case of people who are there because of residence.”
  • “In short, with primary mixtures, it is everyday, ordinary performance in mixing people, as pools of economic mutual support, that counts. This is the point, and it is a tangible, concrete economic matter, not a vaguely “atmospheric” effect.”
  • “condition has been more or less formalized in planning jargon, which no longer speaks of “downtowns” but instead of “CBD’s”—standing for Central Business Districts. A Central Business District that lives up to its name and is truly described by it, is a dud. Few downtowns have reached (yet) the degree of unbalance to be found at the lower tip of Manhattan.”
  • “Without a strong and inclusive central heart, a city tends to become a collection of interests isolated from one another. It falters at producing something greater, socially, culturally and economically, than the sum of its separated parts.”
  • “Long blocks also thwart the principle that if city mixtures of use are to be more than a fiction on maps, they must result in different people, bent on different purposes, appearing at different times, but using the same streets.”
  • “Like mixtures of primary use, frequent streets are effective in helping to generate diversity only because of the way they perform. The means by which they work (attracting mixtures of users along them) and the results they can help accomplish (the growth of diversity) are inextricably related. The relationship is reciprocal.”
  • “Time makes the high building costs of one generation the bargains of a following generation. Time pays off original capital costs, and this depreciation can be reflected in the yields required from a building. Time makes certain structures obsolete for some enterprises, and they become available to others. Time can make the space efficiencies of one generation the space luxuries of another generation.”
  • “Who could anticipate or provide for such a succession of hopes and schemes? Only an unimaginative man would think he could; only an arrogant man would want to.”
  • “When such an area is new, it offers no economic possibilities to city diversity. The practical penalties of dullness, from this and other causes, stamp the neighborhood early. It becomes a place to leave. By the time the buildings have indeed aged, their only useful city attribute is low value, which by itself is not enough.”
  • “But a good mingling of the old buildings must remain, and in remaining they will have become something more than mere decay from the past or evidence of previous failure. They will have become the shelter which is necessary, and valuable to the district, for many varieties of middling-, low- and no-yield diversity.”
  • “Thus in 1959, John H. Denton, a professor of business at the University of Arizona, after studying American suburbs and British “new towns” came to the conclusion that such places must rely on ready access to a city for protection of their cultural opportunities. “He based his findings,” reported the New York Times, “on the lack of a sufficient density of population to support cultural facilities. Mr. Denton…said that decentralization produced such a thin population spread that the only effective economic demand that could exist in suburbs was that of the majority. The only goods and cultural activities available will be those that the majority requires, he observed,” and”
  • “One reason why low city densities conventionally have a good name, unjustified by the facts, and why high city densities have a bad name, equally unjustified, is that high densities of dwellings and overcrowding of dwellings are often confused.”
  • “Just so, proper city dwelling densities are a matter of performance. They cannot be based on abstractions about the quantities of land that ideally should be allotted for so-and-so many people (living in some docile, imaginary society).”
  • “Unfortunately, however, densities high enough to bring with them innate city problems are not by any means necessarily high enough to do their share in producing city liveliness, safety, convenience and interest. And so, between the point where semisuburban character and function are lost, and the point at which lively diversity and public life can arise, lies a range of big-city densities that I shall call “in-between” densities. They are fit neither for suburban life nor for city life. They are fit, generally, for nothing but trouble.”
  • “Obviously, if the object is vital city life, the dwelling densities should go as high as they need to go to stimulate the maximum potential diversity in a district.”
  • “The reason dwelling densities can begin repressing diversity if they get too high is this: At some point, to accommodate so many dwellings on the land, standardization of the buildings must set in. This is fatal, because great diversity in age and types of buildings has a direct, explicit connection with diversity of population, diversity of enterprises and diversity of scenes.”
  • “doubt that it is possible, without drastic standardization, to go higher than the North End’s density of 275 dwellings per net acre.”
  • “No good for cities or for their design, planning, economics or people, can come of the emotional assumption that dense city populations are, per se, undesirable. In my view, they are an asset. The task is to promote the city life of city people, housed, let us hope, in concentrations both dense enough and diverse enough to offer them a decent chance at developing city life.”
  • “Homogeneity of uses poses an unavoidable esthetic dilemma: Shall the homogeneity look as homogeneous as it is, and be frankly monotonous? Or shall it try not to look as homogeneous as it is and go in for eye-catching, but meaningless and chaotic differences?”
  • “…the interweaving of human patterns. They are full of people doing different things, with different reasons and different ends in view, and the architecture reflects and expresses this difference—which is one of content rather than form alone. Being human, human beings are what interest us most. In architecture as in literature and the drama, it is the richness of human variation that gives vitality and color to the human setting… Considering the hazard of monotony…the most serious fault in our zoning laws lies in the fact that they permit an entire area to be devoted to a single use.”
  • “Raskin, in his essay on variety, suggested that the greatest flaw in city zoning is that it permits monotony. I think this is correct. Perhaps the next greatest flaw is that it ignores scale of use, where this is an important consideration, or confuses it with kind of use,”
  • “My observations and conclusions thus far sum up to this: In our American cities, we need all kinds of diversity, intricately mingled in mutual support. We need this so city life can work decently and constructively, and so the people of cities can sustain (and further develop) their society and civilization.”
  • “City districts will be economically and socially congenial places for diversity to generate itself and reach its best potential if the districts possess good mixtures of primary uses, frequent streets, a close-grained mingling of different ages in their buildings, and a high concentration of people.”
  • “Vicious circles, to be sure, are hard to follow. Cause and effect become confused precisely because they do link and relink with one another in such complicated ways.”
  • “However, cities need not “bring back” a middle class, and carefully protect it like an artificial growth. Cities grow the middle class.”
  • “The old neighborhood would have been characterized as predominately poor too, but it had people who had made modest gains. It was not a sorting of all the poorest.”
  • “The processes that occur in unslumming depend on the fact that a metropolitan economy, if it is working well, is constantly transforming many poor people into middle-class people, many illiterates into skilled (or even educated) people, many greenhorns into competent citizens.”
  • “Credit-blacklisting maps, like slum-clearance maps, are accurate prophecies because they are self-fulfilling prophecies.”
  • “Public housing stands apart from other, logically analogous forms of capitalism and of government partnership which we have evolved; it incorporates the belief that government must take over a facility purely because government contributes subsidy funds.”
  • ““Fix the buildings but leave the people.” “No relocation outside the neighborhood.”—These must be the slogans if public housing is to be popular.”
  • “Today everyone who values cities is disturbed by automobiles. Traffic arteries, along with parking lots, gas stations and drive-ins, are powerful and insistent instruments of city destruction.”
  • “This was the London of Ebenezer Howard, and it is hardly surprising that he regarded city streets as unfit for human beings. Le Corbusier, when he designed his Radiant City of the 1920’s, as a park, skyscraper and automobile freeway version of Howard’s small-town Garden City,”
  • “We went awry by replacing, in effect, each horse on the crowded city streets with half a dozen or so mechanized vehicles, instead of using each mechanized vehicle to replace half a dozen or so horses.”
  • “And there is another difficulty behind pedestrian schemes. Most city enterprises which are a response to pedestrian street use, and which, reciprocally, generate more pedestrian street use, themselves need convenient access to vehicles for services, supplies or transport of their own products.”
  • “I am doubtful as to whether the advantages of thoroughgoing separation are, in any case, very great. The conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles on city streets arise mainly from overwhelming numbers of, vehicles, to which all but the most minimum pedestrian needs are gradually and steadily sacrificed.”
  • “Life attracts life. Where pedestrian separation is undertaken as some sort of abstract nicety and too many forms of life and activity go unaccommodated or are suppressed to make the nicety work, the arrangement goes unappreciated.”
  • “To think of city traffic problems in oversimplified terms of pedestrians versus cars, and to fix on the segregation of each as a principal goal, is to go at the problem from the wrong end. Consideration for pedestrians in cities is inseparable from consideration for city diversity, vitality and concentration of use. In the absence of city diversity, people in large settlements are probably better off in cars than on foot. Unmanageable city vacuums are by no means preferable to unmanageable city traffic.”
  • “But the instant Gruen had calculated his sixteen million square feet, the figure was already out of date and much too small. To obtain that much roadbed space, the downtown would have to spread out physically to an enormous extent. A given quantity of economic uses would thereby be spread relatively thin. To use its different elements, people would have to depend much less on walking and much more on driving. This would further increase the need for still more street space, or else there would be a terrible mess of congestion. Differing uses, necessarily strung out in such relatively loose fashion, would be so far from one another that it would become necessary to duplicate parking spaces themselves, because uses bringing people at different hours would not be sufficiently compact for much staggered use of the same accommodations.*2 This would mean spreading the downtown even thinner, in turn requiring still more use of cars, traveling greater absolute distances internally.”
  • “Induced denabd”
  • “But swiftly or slowly, the positive feedback is at work. Swiftly or slowly, greater accessibility by car is inexorably accompanied both by less convenience and efficiency of public transportation, and by thinning-down and smearing-out of uses, and hence by more need for cars.”
  • “With greater accessibility to a district by cars, total cross-use of the district by people thus invariably declines, and this is a serious matter for cities, where one of the great jobs of transportation is to permit and encourage cross-use.”
  • “But, on the other hand, unlike suburbs, their concentration of people is too high for suburban accommodation of all the automobiles and parking necessary. “In-between” densities—too low for cities, too high for suburbs—are as impractical for transportation as they are for other economic or social purposes.”
  • “Attrition of automobiles operates by making conditions less convenient for cars.”
  • “In real life, this works only if and when the expressways are well under capacity use; left unconsidered is the eventual destination, off the expressway, of that increased flow of vehicles. Instead of serving as bypassers, expressways in cities serve too frequently as dumpers.”
  • “A city cannot be a work of art.”
  • “We need art, in the arrangements of cities as well as in the other realms of life, to help explain life to us, to show us meanings, to illuminate the relationship between the life that each of us embodies and the life outside us. We need art most, perhaps, to reassure us of our own humanity.”
  • “To see complex systems of functional order as order, and not as chaos, takes understanding.”
  • “Eliel Saarinen, who is reported to have said, in explaining his own design premises, “There must always be an end in view, and the end must not be final.””
  • “In addition to the functional awkwardnesses and the economic waste of primary diversity that these projects cause, the buildings assembled into such islands of pomp are badly underused as landmarks.”
  • “The theorists of conventional modern city planning have consistently mistaken cities as problems of simplicity and of disorganized complexity, and have tried to analyze and treat them thus.”
  • “In the case of understanding cities, I think the most important habits of thought are these: 1. To think about processes; 2. To work inductively, reasoning from particulars to the general, rather than the reverse; 3. To seek for “unaverage” clues involving very small quantities, which reveal the way larger and more “average” quantities are operating.”
  • “Why reason inductively [(from particulars to the general)]? Because to reason, instead, from generalizations ultimately drives us into absurdities—as in the case of the Boston planner who knew (against all the real-life evidence he had) that the North End had to be a slum because the generalizations that make him an expert say it is.”
  • “Nature watching, he points out, “is quite as easy in the city as in the country; all one has to do is accept Man as a part of Nature.”
  • “And so, each day, several thousand more acres of our countryside are eaten by the bulldozers, covered by pavement, dotted with suburbanites who have killed the thing they thought they came to find.”
  • “Our irreplaceable heritage of Grade I agricultural land (a rare treasure of nature on this earth) is sacrificed for highways or supermarket parking lots as ruthlessly and unthinkingly as the trees in the woodlands are uprooted, the streams and rivers polluted and the air itself filled with the gasoline exhausts (products of eons of nature’s manufacturing) required in this great national effort to cozy up with a fictionalized nature and flee the “unnaturalness” of the city.”
  • “Big cities and countrysides can get along well together. Big cities need real countryside close by. And countryside—from man’s point of view—needs big cities, with all their diverse opportunities and productivity, so human beings can be in a position to appreciate the rest of the natural world instead of to curse it.

Related Material

sebastiankade

Sebastian Kade, Founder of Sumry and Author of Living Happiness, is a software designer and full-stack engineer. He writes thought-provoking articles every now and then on sebastiankade.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *