Thursday, December 17, 2009

555 Hudson St.

The Red One in the Center
Google Maps Street View

When it came time for me to learn about urban planning I went to Planetizen's list of the top 20 planning books of all time. #1 on that list was, and still is, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) by Jane Jacobs. I went to the street where she lived (she's dead now so I figure this isn't too creepy) and about which she wrote so much.

Want the super short version of the book? She lays out four elements of urban form that cities need to be walkable, safe, diverse and interesting.

1) Density (there need to be people walking and eyes on the street to keep things safe and lively; suburbia isn't dense enough make that happen at the level needed)

2) A mixture of land uses (there have to be things to walk to which draw people to a neighborhood at different times of the day and night)

3) Short blocks (long blocks can increase walking distances and funnel pedestrians away from certain streets; long blocks help cars drive faster, short blocks help people walk more easily)

4) A mixture of building ages (different rents, different levels of affordability, different kinds of people, a more interesting/diverse neighborhood; radical one-shot redevelopment of entire neighborhoods tends to mess things up)

I can't do the book justice in a short blog post, so you'll have to pick it up and read it yourself :)

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