On May 16, 2017, the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment of the TU Delft celebrated Jane Jacobs’ contribution to our understanding of contemporary cities once more.
Roberta Brandes Gratz, the celebrated author of “We are Still Here, Ya Bastards” about citizens initiatives in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orlean, and Susanne Komossa, Associate Professor at Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment TU Delft, discussed Jane’s ideas and reflected on the notion that Jane Jacobs is still very much relevant today.
This is reflected, among other things, in the immense popularity of Jane’d ideas among young planners and designers. A simple Google search of the term “urban planner” yields the following result:
A line-up of male planners is headed by the most relevant of them all (according to Google’s algorithms), Jane Jacobs! This is ironic, since Jane Jacobs would hardly see herself as a planner.
Maybe, like Roberta Gratz, she was an anti-planner, someone with an eye for careful empirical observation, for whom cities ought to be understood from the ground-up. Jacobs was an astute observer of the life of cities and the inherent processes that produce both cities and citizenship.
In her talks, Gratz and Komossa highlight respectively, how Jacobs is still relevant as a political theorist and how she can also help us understand how urban form yields meaning and helps define behaviour. This was the closing event of the centennial celebrations of Jane Jacobs at our faculty, organised by the Chair of Spatial Planning and Strategy.
You can listen to the conversation below:
Here you can listen to the speech of Susanna Komossa:
Here you can listen to the speech of Roberta Brandes Gratz:
And here you can listen to the discussion:
This is the closing event of the centennial celebrations of Jane Jacobs.
Roberta Brandes Gratz: Jane Jacobs is still here!
Jane Jacobs changed the way the world views cities. But is she as relevant today as when her first book burst on the scene in 1961 to challenge the planning orthodoxy of the day?
Sixty-six years since ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ came out, people constantly ask “What would Jane say?” about one urban challenge or another. Is that the right question? Roberta Brandes Gratz will reflect on this and other questions.
Roberta is an American award-winning journalist and urban critic, lecturer and author of the books ‘We’re Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City’; ‘The Battle For Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs’; the now classics ‘The Living City: Thinking Small in a Big Way’, and ‘Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown’. Roberta was also a longtime friend of Jacobs.
Susanne Komossa: Lessons taught by J.J.; lessons learned by an architect
“Jane Jacobs is probably one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century. Like Hannah Ahrendt, she felt obliged to think and investigate freely and without fear of being caught by conventions. Her critique of Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities (1938) is pivotal for our understanding of contemporary cities and the forces that drive change. Basically, she marks the transition from thinking and urban design based on large scale labor to – what we would call today – the creative and inclusive city that is characterised by the dynamics between small/medium and large companies and the integration and overlap of work, leisure and everyday life of citizens.
Jacobs discussed these issues not only in the book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ (1961) but also in ‘The Economy of Cities’ (1969) and ‘Cities and the Wealth of Nations’ (1984). For a long time, thinking ‘economy’ was regarded as minor to cultural or political engagement. However, Jane Jacobs taught me to jump over these gaps and to ‘observe’ and investigate the mutual relationship between these three within our physical environment, the buildings we design and the public realm of cities. I feel honored to elaborate these lessons I learned during the closing of the Jane Jacobs centennial year at the Faculty of AB+E and indeed: ‘Jane Jacobs is still here’!”
Susanne Komossa is Associate Professor at Bouwkunde, coordinator of the research group ‘Architecture and the City: Public Building /Public Realm, Composition & Tectonics’, author of the book ‘The Dutch Urban Block and the Public Realm: Models, Rules, Ideals’
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