Jacobs and Moses’ Famous Feud to Be Dramatized in Opera

Courtesy of Fast Co-Design

Yes, you read right – the 1960s urban planning battle between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses will be the central story line for a new opera. Although the premiere is a long way off, its creators promise to bring New York City and the drama to life through song and an elaborate, animated, three-dimensional set. To find out more about the developing project, head on over to Fast Co-Design.

Happy Birthday Jane Jacobs

Image via Wikipedia. ImageJane Jacobs, then chairperson of a civic group in Greenwich Village, at a press conference in 1961

Today would have been social activist and urban writer Jane Jacob‘s 98th . Throughout her career, she fought against corporate globalization and urged urban planners and developers to remember the importance of community and the human scale. Despite not having any formal training, she radically changed urban planning policy through the power of observation and personal experience. Her theories on how design can affect community and creativity continue to hold relevance today - influencing everything from the design of mega-cities to tiny office spaces. She passed away in 2006.

In The Life and Death of Great American Cities, her most well-known publication, Jacobs critiques the short-sightedness of urban planners in the 1950s and argues that their assumptions about what makes a good city are actually detrimental to the human experience. For example, she contends that the creation of automobile infrastructure results in the unnatural division of pre-existing neighbourhoods, creating unsafe environments and thereby severing community connections. In the years leading up to her death, she discussed ways in which communities could recover what they lost as a result of poor foresight in earlier city planning efforts.

After her first novel, Jacobs broadened her scope and began to look at topics such as economics, morals, and social relations. Here is a complete list of her publications:

Jane Jacobs: Neighborhoods in Action / Active Living Network

Here is a video interview, produced by Active Living Network, with famed author and social activist .  In 1961, Jacobs published The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a bold response to the city planning strategies of her time and the proposals by planners such as .  She used her real-world experiences and observations from her own street in the West Village of New York City to comment on how people interacted in neighborhoods – which areas were busiest, safest and most conducive to living.  In this video, Jacobs gives insight into how cities can bounce back from the environment created by the automobile through simple and affordable means such as “tree planting, traffic taming and community events”.

Read on for more after the break.

Learning from the slums (2/2): the rediscovery

The model #1: Napoli, quartieri Spagnoli (image: flickr)

If the mainstream view on the slums describes them as places to escape from and as to destroy as soon as possible, more and more people look at slums in a different way.

The first glances at slums were from some of the architects involved in urban renewal projects, who started to integrate in their projects some elements of the slums. Some of the recurrent features are:

  • narrow courtyards and alleys
  • division of the building into small blocks
  • use of different colors and materials within the same building.

(part 1/2)