of jane jacobs and ipods – mammoth // building nothing out of something

of jane jacobs and ipods

An excellent post at Kosmograd, “The Ballet of iPod City”, ably connects two items that mammoth has recently written about, the iPod (and iPhone) factory-city in Shenzhen and Benjamin Schwarz’s critical essay on post-Jacobsian urbanists in the Atlantic Monthly:

…Jacobs founded a powerful myth of urbanism, that the sine qua non of urban form was to found in the ‘ballet of Hudson Street’, and with it created such as narrow definition of what represents vitality in cities that it can only be achieved with the values that Jacobs proscribed, and that conversely, anything that ignores any of these principles must be doomed to failure. The New Urbanists have taken a set of observations from Death and Life of Great American Cities, and turned them into design guidelines, a form of environmental determinism that in many ways is the exact opposite of what Jacobs wrote and stood for…

Such a narrow depth of field seems increasingly less relevant in today’s globalised economy and accelerated culture. The forces of gentrification move ever faster. The city districts that Jacobs wrote about so evocatively/cringingely can now be seen as a mirage, or at least a frozen moment in the evolution of a neighbourhood. Even New York, arguably the definitive city of the 20th Century, seems increasingly irrelevant as the hothouse for urbanism for the 21st Century. For this we need to look beyond Greenwich Village, outside the western cities of Europe and the US, and look at Asia and South America. Jane Jacobs’ principles seem increasingly irrelevant to the raging economic and urbanising forces at work in say Shanghai, Dubai or Sao Paulo.

Read the entire post.

2 Responses to “of jane jacobs and ipods”

  1. faslanyc says:

    That was a good article. In the design and policy conversations about city planning, no one ever talks about de-gentrification, or re-de-gentrification, or whatever. We don’t have words for it and so we deny the cyclical (or more accurately, non-linear) nature of these urban dynamics.

    Bed-Stuy is a good example of this- once farmland outside of brooklyn, developed as upper middle class housing, fell on hard times and was the most dangerous NYC neighborhood for a while, as well as spawning most of its rappers. It then began re-gentrifying in the 90’s-00’s and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. It’s a complicated story.

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