Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jane Jacobs

I was saddened but not surprised when I first heard the news of the death of Jane Jacobs. She was getting on in years (89), yet even recently she had something to say.

I think it was my architecture prof who first introduced me to her work. I read her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities and my eyes opened to what was happening to my city around me. I couldn't put it down. I became aware of the cost of suburban growth, why the Spadina Expressway was stopped -- it wasn't just a NIMBY knee-jerk reaction -- what makes me feel safe in some parts of Toronto and not in others, why San Francisco differs from Toronto, although it reminds me strongly of my city. I became aware of why cities with a heavy transit presence are far more human friendly and why traffic measures to reduce cars passing through are not good. She taught me what to look for when looking for a safe, vibrant neighbourhood in which to live. In short she opened my eyes to why living in Toronto was like paradise...and today why it's falling apart.

As others have noted, it was too bad she did not write more books. Yet this one book was so profound, so influential, did she need to add more to her oeuvre? Even over 20 years after it was published, I found it relevant as obviously did my prof.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Great minds come and go but thank God some like Jacobs leave behind a part of themselves.

"The Death and Life of Great American Cities" was an amazing work.