Jane Jacobs died this week. She permanently changed the way I think and see.
Her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” overwhelmed me with feelings of serendipity and intimacy. It dug deep into a long series of my questions and observations about cities and neighborhoods and public spaces.
I kept bumping against these issues in the dark, struggling with common-sense suspicions that so much of the logic behind recent North American urban planning and housing development is just plain wrong and destructive — until Jacobs flipped on the spotlights and revealed the very real sources of those feelings.
She led me to an ongoing fascination with urban studies and architecture. I realized through Jacobs how important it is to understand the workings of places and flows of people in the city when designing new communications tech.
She underlined the need to break out of academic and professional echo chambers. To simply get out there and watch how things work, from the ground up. To plant the right seeds and get out of the way, rather than attempting to overdesign, to dictate, to predict the unpredictable.
She did all this through plain, passionate, human language, without an ounce of pedantry or arrogance.