ruminations about architecture and design

Monday, May 19, 2014

jane jacobs and the limits of data

I read a newspaper article last week about recent research that demonstrated how older buildings with a diversity of scale helped foster better economic conditions in cities. Jane Jacobs made this observation many decades ago, and it should serve as a sobering lesson to city leaders and developers who become infatuated by the return on investment provided by office towers or luxury condominiums.

That's the old news. The new news is that Antarctica is going to be dumping large amounts of ice into the oceans over the coming decades, which means I'll probably be buying flood insurance sooner rather than later.

But, back to Jane Jacobs. She was critical of people who were obsessed with data, or spent more time trying to collect statistics than make observations about their environment. She realized that her qualitative assessment of Greenwich Village and the North End could be applied to nearly all urban situations. She also had history on her side because she was able to recognize how older cities with poor transportation infrastructure were nicer to live in.

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