All students in this class agree to abide by the principles of academic integrity. All cases of dishonesty in this course, including cheating on examinations and quizzes, or plagiarism on assignments, will not be tolerated and will be dealt with according to the policies of the University.
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All students in this class agree to abide by the principles of academic integrity. All cases of
dishonesty in this course, including cheating on examinations and quizzes, or plagiarism on
assignments, will not be tolerated and will be dealt with according to the policies of the
University. Cheating by sharing information during or about exams and quizzes or using
unauthorized materials will result in an AUTOMATIC ZERO for the student’s examination and
further action as outlined by University policy.
Any violation of academic integrity will be investigated, and where warranted, punitive action
will be taken. For every incident when a penalty of any kind is assessed, a report must be filed.
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Based on her writing, how does Jacobs appear to feel about her topic? Do you think this
makes her writing more or less convincing? (4-5 thoughtful sentences minimum.)
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Jacobs believed that, with enough money, city slums could be eliminated within ten
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At the time of her writing, the following are all reasons Jacobs criticized modern urban
Expressways “eviscerated” once great cities.
Urban culture was neglected.
Commercial centers imitated suburban chainstore shopping.
Financial investments were used sparingly.
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According to Jacobs, the North End in Boston was successful in its rehabilitation by the
time of her return visit in 1959 and characterized by: (Select ALL that apply.)
Large, expansive blocks
Children playing in the streets
Lots of new construction
Mixed use shopping and residential
Plenty of parkland
Freshly painted buildings
Uncrowded, renovated apartments
Lively, infectious atmosphere
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Explain Jacobs’ analogy between professional urban planning and medical
bloodletting. Do you think she makes a fair comparison? Why or why not?
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What caused professional urbanists to call the North End in Boston a ‘slum’? Why did
Jacobs think this was wrong? Whose mode of analysis do you find most convincing?
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Why did residents of the East Harlem project find its lawn infuriating? How might its
meaning be different to the people who designed the project from the people who lived
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This material has been reproduced from the following source:
Jacobs, Jane. The Death and life of great American cities (Introduction). New
York. Vintage Books. 1961. CCC 61006262. pp. 2-16.
Date prepared: 7/13/2010
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“Until lately the best thing that I was able to
think of in favor of civilization, apart from
blind acceptance of the order of the universe,
was that it made possible the artist, the poet,
the philosopher, and the man of science. But I
think that is not the greatest thing. Now I
believe that the greatest thing is a matter that
comes directly home to us all. When it is
said that we are too much occupied with the means
of living to live, I answer that the chief worth
of civilization is just that it makes the means
of living more complex; that it calls for great
and combined intellectual efforts, instead of
simple, uncoordinated ones, in order that the
crowd may be fed and clothed and housed and moved
from place to place. Because more qomplex and
intense intellectual efforts mean a fuller and
richer life. They mean more life. Life is an
end in itself, and the only question as to
whether it is worth living is whether you have
enough of it.
“I will add but a word. We are all very near
despair. The sheathing that floats us over its
waves is compounded of hope, faith in the
unexplainable worth and sure issue of effort,
and the deep, sub-conscious content which comes
from the exercise of our powers.”
WEN D E
H 0 L M E s,
This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding. It
is also, and mostly, an attempt to introduce new principles of city
rebuildin.g, different and even opposite from those
now taught III everything from schools of architecture and planning to the Sunday supplements and women’s magazines. My attack is not based on quibbles about rebuilding methods Of- hairsplitting about fashions in design. It is an attack, rather, on the
principles and aims that have shaped modern, orthodox city planning and rebuilding.
In setting forth different principles, I shall mainly be writing
about common, ordinary
for instance, what
streets are safe and what kinds are not; why some CIty parks are
marvelous and others are vice traps and death traps; why some
slums stay slums and other slums regenerate themselves even
against financial and official opposition; what makes downtowns
shift their centers; what, if anything, is a city neighborhood, and
what jobs, if any, neighborhoods in great cities do. In short, I 1
shall be writing about how cities work in real life, because this is 1
the only way to learn what principles of planning and what practices in rebuilding can promote social and economic vitality in
cities, and what practices and principles will deaden these attri-‘ ii
There is a wistful myth that if only we had enough money tOj
spend-the figure is usually put at a hundred billion dollars-we’!1
could wipe out all our slums in ten years, reverse decay in the:
great, dull, gray belts that were yesterday’s and
terday’s suburbs, anchor the wandering middle class and its wan-f
dering tax money, and perhaps even solve the traffic problem.
But look what we have built with the first several billions:J
Low-income projects that become worse centers of delinquency,.
vandalism and general social hopelessness than the slums
were supposed to replace. Middle-;ncome housing projects which’
are truly marvels of dullness and regimentation, sealed’
buoyancy or vitality of city life. Luxury housing projects tha(
mitigate their inanity, or try to, with a vapid vulgarity. Cultura(
centers that are unable to support a good bookstore. Civic centers:
that are avoided by everyone but bums, who have fewer
of loitering place than others. Commercial centers that are lack-:
luster imitations of standardized suburban chain-store
Promenades that go from no place to nowhere and have no
enaders. Expressways that eviscerate great cities. This is not
rebuilding of cities. This is the
Under the surface, these accomplishments prove even poorer
than their poor pretenses. They seldom aid the city areas aroun
as in theory they
supposed to. These
typIcally develop gallopmg gangrene. To house people m
planned fashion, price tags are fastened on the population, an!
each sorted-out chunk of price-tagged populace lives in growing
suspicion and tension against the surrounding city. When two 6f
more such hostile islands are juxtaposed the result is called
balanced neighborhood.” Monopolistic shopping centers
monumental cultural centers cloak, under the public relationS
hoohaw, the subtraction of commerce, and of culture too, froI!1
the intimate and casual life of cities.
That such wonders may be accomplished, people who get
marked with the planners’ hex signs are pushed about, expropri.ated, and uprooted much as if they were the subjects of a conquering power. Thousands upon thousands of small businesses are
destroyed, and their proprietors ruined, with hardly a gesture at
compensation. Whole communities are torn apart and sown to the
winds, with a reaping of cynicism, resentment and despair that
must be heard and seen to be believed. A group of clergymen in
Chicago, appalled at the fruits of planned city rebuilding there,
Could Job have been thinking of Chicago when he wrote:
Here are men that alter their neighbor’S landmark
shoulder the poor aside, conspire to oppress the friendless.
Reap they the field that is none of theirs, strip they the vineyard wrongfully seized from its owner . . .
A c’ry goes up from the city streets, where wounded men lie
groamng . . .
If so, he was afso .thinking of New York, Philadelphia, Boston,
Washington, St. Louis, San Francisco and a number of other
places. The economic rationale of current city rebuilding is a j
.hoax. The economics of city rebuilding do not rest soundly on ‘I
reasoned investment of public tax subsidies, as urban renewal Ii
theory” proclaims, but also on vast, involuntary sl!-bsidies wrung . I
out of helpless site victims. And the increased tax returns from
such sites, accruing to the cities as a resul t of this “investment,”
are a mirage, a pitiful gesture against the ever increasing sums of
public money needed to combat disintegration and instability that
flow from the cruelly shaken-up city. The means to planned city .
rebuilding are as deplorable as the ends.
Meantime, all the art and science of city planning are helpless to 11
decay–:-in ever ‘II!
more maSSIve swatches of CIties. Nor can thIS decay be laId, reas-”
suringly, to lack of opportunity to apply the arts of planning. It
seems to matter little whether they are applied or not. Consider
the Morningside Heights area in New York City. According to
planning theory it should not be in trouble at all, for it enjoys a
great abundance of parkland, campus, playground and other
open spaces. It has plenty of grass. It occupies high and pleasant
ground with magnificent river views. It is a famous educational
center with splendid institutions-Columbia University, Union
Theological Seminary, the Juilliard School of Music, and half a
dozen others of eminent respectability. It is the beneficiary of
good hospitals and churches. It has no industries. Its streets are
zoned in the main against “incompatible uses” intruding into the
preserves for solidly constructed, roomy, middle- and upper-class
apartments. Yet by the early I950’s Morningside Heights was
becoming a slum so swiftly, the surly kind of slum in which people fear to walk the streets, that the situation posed a crisis for the
institutions. They and the planning arms of the city government
got together, applied more planning theory, wiped out the most
run-down part of the area and built in its stead a middle-income
cooperative project complete with shopping center,
housing project, all interspersed with air, light, sunshine and
landscaping. This was hailed as a great demonstration in city savmg.
After that, Morningside Heights weI).t downhill even faster.
Nor is this an unfair or irrelevant example. In city after city,
precisely the wrong areas, in the light of planning theory, are de- ‘
caying. Less noticed, but equally significant, in city after city
the wrong areas, in the light of planning theory, are refusing to
Cities are an immense laboratory of trial and error, failure and
success, in city building and city design. This is the laboratory in
which city planning should have been learning and forming and
testing its theories. Instead the pr:tctitioners and teachers of this
discipline (if such it can be called) have ignored the study of success and failure in real life, have been incurious about the reasons
for unexpected success, and are guided instead by principles derived from the behavior and appearance of towns, suburbs, tuberculosis sanatoria, fairs, and imaginary dream cities-from anything
but cities themselves.
If it appears that the rebuilt portions of cities and the endless
new developments spreading beyond the cities are reducing city
and countryside alike to a monotonous, unnourishing gruel, this is
not strange. It all comes, first-, second-,
or fourth-hand, out
of the same intellectual dish of mush, a mush in which the qualities, necessities, advantages and behavior of great cities have been
utterly confused with the qualities, necessities, advantages and
behavior of other and more inert types of settlements.
There is nothing economically or socially inevitable about either the decay of old cities or the fresh-minted decadence of the
new unurban urbanization. On the contrary, no other aspect of
our economy and society has been more purposefully manipulated
for a full quarter of a century to achieve precisely what we are
getting. Extraordinary governmental financial incentives have
been required to achieve this degree of monotony, sterility and
, vulgarity. Decades of preaching, writing and exhorting by experts
have gone into convincing us and our legislators that mush like
this must be good for us, as long as it comes bedded with grass.
Automobiles are often conveniently tagged as the villains responsible for the ills of cities and the disappointments and futilities
of city planning. But the destructive effects of automobiles are
much less a cau,se than a symptom of our incompetence at city ,;1
building. ,Of course planners, including the highwaymen with ,’!
fabulous sums of money and enormous powers at their disposal,
are at a loss to make automobiles and cities compatible with one
They do not know what to do with automobiles in cities
because they do not know how to plan for workable and vital ‘I’
cities anyhow-with or without automobiles.
The simple needs of automobiles are more easily understood
and satisfied than the complex needs of cities, and a growing number of planners and designers have come to believe that if they
can only solve the problems of traffic, they will thereby have II’
solved the major problem of cities. Cities have much more intricate economic and social concerns than automobile traffic. How
can you know what to try with traffic until you know how the
city itself works, and what else it needs to do with its streets?
It may be that we have become so feckless as a people that we
no longer care how things d() work, but only what kind of quick,
easy outer impression they give. If so, there is little hope for our
cities or probably for much else in our society. But I do not think
this is so.
Specifically, in the case of planning for cities, it is clear that
a large number of good and earnest people do care deeply about
building and renewing. Despite some corruption, and considerable
greed for the other man’s vineyard, the intentions going into the
messes we make are, on the whole, exemplary. Planners, architects
of city design, and those they have led along with them in their
beliefs are not consciously disdainful of the importance of knowing how things work. On the contrary, they have gone to ‘great
pains to learn what the saints and sages of modern orthodox planning have said about how cities ought to work and what ought to
be good for people and businesses in them. They take this with
such devotion that when contradictory reality intrudes, threatening to shatter their dearly won learning, they
Consider, for example, the orthodox planning reaction to a district called the North End in Boston.’*’ This is an old, low-rent
area merging into the heavy industry of the waterfront, and it is
officially considered Boston’s worst slum and civic shame. It embodies attributes which all enlightened people know are evil because so many wise men have said they are evil. Not only is the
North End bumped right up against industry, but worse still it
has all kinds of working places and commerce mingled in the
greatest complexity with its residences. It has the highest concentration of dwelling units, on the land that is used for dwelling
units, of any part of Boston, and indeed one of the highest concentrations to be found in any American city. It has little parkland. Children play in the streets. Instead of super-blocks, or
even decently large blocks, it has very small blocks; in planning
parlance it is “badly cut up with wasteful streets.” Its buildings
are old. Everything conceivable is presumably wrong with the
North End. In orthodox planning terms, it is a three-dimensional
textbook of “megalopolis” in the last stages of depravity. The
North End is thus a recurring assignment for M.LT. and Harvard
.. Please remember the North End. I shall refer to it frequently in this
planning and architectural students, who now and again pursue,
under the guidance of their teachers, the paper exercise of converting it into super-blocks and park promenades, wiping away
its nonconforming uses, transforming it to an
of order and
gentility so simple it could be engraved on the head of a pin.
Twenty years ago, when I first happened to see the North
End, its buildings-town houses of different kinds and sizes converted to flats, and four- or five-story tenements built to house
the flood of immigrants first from Ireland, then from Eastern Europe and finally from Sicily-were badly overcrowded, and the
general effect was of a district taking a terrible physical beating
and certainly desperately poor.
When I saw the North End again in 1959, I was amazed at the
change. Dozens and dozens of buildings had been rehabilitated.
Instead of mattresses against the windows there were Venetian
blinds and glimpses of fresh paint. Many of the small, converted
houses now had only one or two families in them instead of the
old crowded three or four. Some of the families in the tenements
(as I learned later, visiting inside) had uncrowded themselves by
throwing two older apartments together, and had equipped these
with bathrooms,’new kitchens and the like. I looked down a narrow alley, thinking to find at least here the old, squalid North
End, but no: more neatly repointed brickwork, new blinds, and a
burst of music as a door opened. Indeed, this was the only city
district I had ever seen-or have seen to this day-in which the
sides of buildings around parking lots had not been left raw and
amputated, but repaired and painted as neatly as if they were intended to be seen. Mingled all among the buildings for living. were
an incredible number of splendid food stores, as well as such enterprises as upholstery making, metal working, carpentry, food
processing. The streets were alive with children playing, people
shopping, people strolling, people talking. Had it not been a cold
January day, there would surely have been people sitting.
The general street atmosphere of buoyancy, friendliness and
good health was so infectious that I began asking direc …
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