Written over 50 years ago, Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities is still one of the most influential books in today's planning world. Celebrated among preservationists and urbanists alike, Jacobs believed that a mixture of uses and a diversity of building types is the key to any great city, and understood that historic preservation is essential to ensuring a community’s social and economic health.
Jacobs famously wrote that "cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them." I recently read two blog posts that got me thinking more about the forces that threaten building diversity and the important role that preservation can play in achieving variety and balance of the built environment.
An original ad for Jacobs' most famous book. (Image: pdxcityscape on Flickr)
Generating and Preserving Diversity - City Builder Book Club
Reflecting on Jane Jacobs in his post Generating and Preserving Diversity, Aaron Renn discusses the detrimental effect of "upscaling" that occurs in many city cores as warehouses and class C office space are replaced with single-use districts with high-end functions. “This is reducing the supply of lower rent buildings, undermining one of the pillars of Jacobs foundations of diversity. […] The loss or upscale conversion of older and lower rent buildings in our central cities, while something to celebrate in many respects, should be a long term concern to those who care about truly sustainable urban diversity, especially if taken too far."
Jane Jacobs street art in Toronto. (Photo: ruffin_ready on Flickr)
Rightsizing Retail - The Architect's Newspaper
"It’s been exactly 50 years since urban activist Jane Jacobs described the sidewalk ballet in front of her home on Hudson Street in Greenwich Village. Developers from Seattle to New York are now trying to replicate her notions of mixed-used community while zoning departments from San Francisco to Toronto try to preserve the ones that are left. Jacobs wrote that neighborhood vitality was due in part to the trust between retailers and their neighbors: "It grows out of people stopping by the bar for a beer, getting advice from the grocer, and giving advice to the newsstand man, comparing opinions with other customers at the bakery…""
More preservation and urban diversity stories after the jump. ... Read More →