Monday, September 15, 2008

Urban Studies 1A: The Death and Life of Great American Cities

"Vital cities have marvelous innate abilities for understanding, communicating, contriving, and inventing what is required to combat their difficulties... Lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves." - Jane Jacobs

As I've mentioned before, I have a ramshackle understanding of Urban Studies and Planning. My understanding grew from the notion that people construct a concept of space based on a layered, nuanced, and complex understanding of home. It's the relationships within a structure of politics, economics, and culture that set in motion crazy dynamics that teeter on a balance of intuition, will, and irrationality.

With that said, among the handful of books that I'm attempting to plow through, is a very special text to the discussion entitled The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. I won't spend too much time summarizing the text, but I will reference the text often, and hopefully over time, I'll be integrating other texts to this blog.

Jacobs' popularity and universal appeal has a lot to do with her methodology. With no formal training in City Planning, Design, or Architecture she very well could have been relegated to a pop scholar, but she gained momentum as she wrote about cities based on her daily and extensive walks and conversations with residents. I'm looking for more time to have a go at this, but in the interim, I'm just keeping my eyes and aperture open to events (to which I'm behind in posting).

I've been highlighting sentences, placing notes in the margins. I'm looking to Jacobs' text to introduce questions that I should consider when I structure documents that respond to this layered and often masked history with Filipinos in the South of Market. With all her writings centering on the relationship between the technical and organic elements of a city, it could get heady, yet it's all very accessible because her writing is from the ground up, not the top down.

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