Will Wiles writes about the veneration of Jane Jacobs by New Urbanists, delving into his own history of reading Jacobs and coming back out with a series of well-made points, from the realization that battling over the legacy and proper reading of a single urbanist like Jacobs is rather unhelpful, to noting that proximity to the workplace is no guarantee of a healthy urbanism (after all, “FoxxConn workers live in and around their workplace“). The latter point leads into this paragraph, which I think makes an important point:
The Nurbanist vision of carving up the city in this way is as diagrammatic and retrograde as Moses’ planning – and, similarly, it’s an assault on the complexity of the city, the city’s ability to generate its own fabulously complicated internal patterns that defy cursory inspection. The emphasis on little neighbourhoods, the stoop, local shops and walking distances, the “human scale” only tells part of the story of the city – after all, these things can be found in villages and small towns. All cities need sublimity, a touch of holy terror, a defiance of human scale that asserts connection to the greater urban whole. Elevated highways, crowds, tall buildings, interconnection and confusion – these things can be to some people dismaying and unpleasant, but the awe they strike is the overture of accepting the condition of living in a city. The Tube roundel is vaguely holy to Londoners – intensely reassuring – because it is a sign of connection with a system of vast complexity and importance. (The religious meaning of the Tube is a subject I keep meaning to write about at some point.) Nurbanism stems from a fear and hatred of the modern city as it is – a hatred that is ideological, that cannot and will not be shown that there are reasons to like the neon snarl of the cities we have, and their inner flows and surges.
Read Wiles’ entire post here.