Via Carlo Cattaneo Brescia Italy - 16
Via Carlo Cattaneo, Brescia Italy, from my flickr photos.

Just finished reading an article from Fortune Magazine’s archives: Downtown is for People (Fortune Classic, 1958) by Jane Jacobs. It’s from before she wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities. (HT: Project for Public Spaces (PPS) Placemaking News)

Downtown is for People is simply a wonderful article. It’s shocking to read how clearly Jacobs describes what’s good and bad about cities and planning. I was particularly impressed by the end of the article where she says citizens can and should play an active role in planning – how’s that for contemporary thinking? Imagine how we could use today’s information technology to help improve this process (for example, my project)?

She also describes how planners often think in terms of blocks (because it’s easier) when they should be thinking about streets … what a simple, but powerful idea for making better places. Her description of Rockefeller Center and its streets is eye-opening.

Jacobs tells her readers to walk, walk, walk … observing the city as they go. This is how you learn what works and doesn’t work in a city. It’s very much the philosophy of Allan Jacobs, one of my teachers at UC Berkeley – he told us look and measure, that’s the way to understanding.

I’ll close by quoting the last line in the article:

Designing a dream city is easy; rebuilding a living one takes imagination.