Week 11 wrap-up – We’re almost finished

Can you believe next week is the last week of Death & Life? It seems like not so long ago we were talking about short blocks and eyes on the street, and now we’re gearing up for the last hurrah: how municipal governments work (or don’t), and the ultimate question — what kind of a problem IS a city?

As we wrap up, we’d like to hear from you. How has the City Builder Book Club contributed to your understanding of cities? What should we be doing differently? And how many of us made it all the way to the end??

Tell us what you think: Fill out our survey!

Bookworm by Jessica Finson

Blog round-up

  • City Love (Brisbane, Australia) sketches landmarks and city unifiers in Chapter 19
  • A City Guy (Chicago, USA) rejoins us with thoughts on narrow streets and visual order (Chapter 19)
  • City Love (Brisbane, Australia) sketches Jane’s Project Recipe in Chapter 20
  • Upper Toronto (Toronto, Canada) reflects on Jane’s comments on the limitations of Death & Life — Jane says these ideas might not apply to cities that are very successful or those that are very damaged
  • Build the City (Seattle) asks, Can Jane Jacobs teach us about grassroots urbanism?

    [T]he vast majority of North Americans today live neither in the idealized small town community nor the Jacobean city district. Instead, we live in an atomized suburban world of automotive arterials, television, internet, membership gyms, big box stores, programmed children’s activities, anonymity and long commutes…

    We urbanists believe that converting to an urban structure will yield many benefits. But what if a majority of a neighborhood’s residents like it the way it is? Jane Jacobs faced a different political and cultural environment, and cannot tell us how to convert gray city neighborhoods and suburbs into thriving urban districts. We have to develop new tools.

Recommendations from the Toronto Public Library

The Toronto Reference Library at 789 Yonge St. now houses the collection of the Urban Affairs Library, formerly located at Metro Hall. As a specialized collection devoted to all aspects of urban planning and local government, the library contains far more than the materials cited here. Titles were selected by librarian Cynthia Fisher to give you an overview of some new and some old books and reports that you can find at the library to complement (and perhaps contradict) some of Jane Jacobs’ views. When viewing the catalogue records for the books, click on some of the subject headings to give you a broader range of materials.

Civitas by design : building better communities, from the garden city to the new urbanism

Since the end of the nineteenth century, city planners have aspired not only to improve the physical living conditions of urban residents but to strengthen civic ties through better design of built environments. From Ebenezer Howard and his vision for garden cities to today’s New Urbanists, these visionaries have sought to deepen civitas, or the shared community of citizens. Many of the buildings, landscapes, and infrastructures that planners envisioned still remain, but frequently these physical designs have proven insufficient to sustain the ideals they represented. Will contemporary urbanists’ efforts to join social justice with environmentalism generate better results?

What Would Jane Say?: City-Building Women and a Tale of Two Chicagos

In response to the Burnham Plan’s centennial, author Janice Metzger digs into the 1909 Plan of Chicago, revealing not just what Burnham and the Commercial Club put into their master plan, but what they left out. What Would Jane Say? tells the tale of two approaches to city-building in the early 1900s and the people and ideas behind them. It also tells the story of what was created in Chicago and what could have been created. Metzger sets a detailed stage of Chicago at the turn of twentieth century—the players and the movements, the problems and the reform efforts, the conflicts and the possibilities—she takes readers into speculative chapters devoted to transportation, law, housing, neighborhood development, immigration, labor, health, and education. What would Jane Addams and her peers say if they had been involved in the Plan of Chicago? Using painstaking research, historical detail, and a pinch of imagination, Metzger thinks she has a pretty good idea…

Modernism and the spirit of the city

Modernism and the Spirit of the City offers a new reading of the architectural modernism that emerged and flourished in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. Rejecting the fashionable postmodernist arguments of the 1980s and ’90s which damned modernist architecture as banal and monotonous, this collection of essays by eminent scholars investigates the complex cultural, social, and religious imperatives that lay below the smooth, white surfaces of new architecture.

Edmonton’s urban villages : the community league movement

How did a collection of neighborhood volunteer organizations come to influence the development of a major Canadian city? Few other North American cities have embraced the community league movement with the vigor of Edmonton. For 87 years, tens of thousands of volunteers from the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) have often acted as a counterweight to large private and institutional interests, shaping municipal development by providing a voice and a training ground for grassroots civic participation. In its wake, the EFCL has left a host of sports, cultural, and civic initiatives for the improvement of Edmonton, and an important lesson on how to create community.

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