Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Silly Me

I never thought to youtube Jane Jacobs before. Who knew there were interviews upon interviews of her. Here she discusses the difference between Montreal and Toronto. It begins woefully as you might expect a shallow contemporary news report interview to be, but then it allows her to just talk and talk and talk. That's exactly when it gets good, and still relevant today:

Favorite bits:

Anchor: "the new, often destructive and wasteful yet exciting way we're building cities."

Lulz. Exciting in the way Thelma and Louise drove off a cliff exciting. In the, I wonder what's gonna happen next sort of way.

Jane: "...pompous. Impressed with mediocrity if it's very big and expensive."

Double lulz. What city might she be talking about? Any? Every? Dallas? What has remained as Jane Jacobs greatest legacy is not nearly her description of complex cities, which unfortunately planners have reduced to "mixed-use!!!! rabble rabble rabble...," but rather the way her writing inspired fields of other study INTO complexity, which is just now being reverberated back into a further understanding of cities. Networks. Sounds simple, but in the way of both cities and fractals, they are both highly simple yet extremely complex when extruded millions of times over.

Building proper city networks, of high degrees of interconnectivity, of opportunity, of choice, unleashes the power of cities in a high bang for buck returns. Completely unlike what she is referring to which has high degree of buck and low returns, sometimes none at all. Just look at everything we've done recently. And by recently I mean starting in the 60's. Everything reduced overall complexity while increasing the cost of maintenance and operation by taking more responsibility within the public sector. All the city has to do is ensure proper networks, interconnectivity, and promote public safety, and the citizens take care of the rest when given half the opportunity.

As I asked Dhiru Thadani during the roundtable, "would you say in our striving for convenience, have we built a city that is quite inconvenient?"

In building big highway networks to nowhere, which eventually became somewhere (sort of, or anywhere) in the name of local spending and economic development and congestion relief, we've actually hurt local economies, local networks, created a funnel of local money outward, reduced demand AND value for and of real estate in the city, AND inverted the relationship of good congestion and bad congestion so that it can't be properly capitalized upon. SUCCESS!