We are becoming too solemn about downtown. The architects, planners—and businessmen—areseized with dreams of order, and they have become fascinated with scale models and bird's-eye views.This is a vicarious way to deal with reality, and it is, unhappily, symptomatic of a design philosophy nowdominant: buildings come ﬁrst, for the goal is to remake the city to ﬁt an abstract concept of what, logi-cally, it should be. But whose logic? The logic of the projects is the logic of egocentric children, playingwith pretty blocks and shouting "See what I made!"
a viewpoint much cultivated in our schools of ar-chitecture and design. And citizens who should know better are so fascinated by the sheer process ofrebuilding that the end results are secondary to them.With such an approach, the end results will be about as helpful to the city as the dated relics of theCityBeautifulmovement, which in the early years of this century was going to rejuvenate the city by makingit parklike, spacious, and monumental. For the underlying intricacy, and the life that makes downtownworth ﬁxing at all, can never be fostered synthetically. No one can ﬁnd what will-work for our cities bylooking at the boulevards of Paris, as the City Beautiful people did; and they can't ﬁnd it by looking atsuburban garden cities, manipulating scale models, or inventing dream cities.
You've got to get out and walk
. Walk, and you will see that many of the assumptions on which the pro- jects depend are visibly wrong. You will see, for example; that a worthy and well-kept institutional cen-ter does not necessarily upgrade its surroundings. (Look at the blight-engulfed urban universities, or thepetered-out environs of such ambitious landmarks as the civic auditorium in St. Louis and the down-town mall in Cleveland. (Look at Pittsburghers by the thousands climbing forty-two steps to enter thevery urban Mellon Square, but balking at crossing the street into the ersatz suburb of Gateway Center.)You will see that it is not the nature of downtown to decentralize. Notice how astonishingly small aplace it is; how abruptly it gives way, outside the small, high-powered core to underused area. Its ten-dency is not to ﬂy apart but to become denser, more compact. Nor is this tendency some the cores hasbeen on the increase, and given the long-tern leftover from the past; the number of people workingwithin growth in white-collar work it will continue so. The tendency to become denser is a fundamentalquality of downtown and it persists for good and sensible reasons.If you get out and walk, you see all sorts of other clues.Why is the hub of downtown such a mixture of things?Why do ofﬁce workers on New York's handsome Park Avenue turn off to Lexington or MadisonAvenue at theﬁrst corner they reach? Why is a good steak houseusually in an old building? Why are short blocks apt tobe busier than long ones?It is the premise of this article that the best way to planfor downtown is to see how people use it today; tolook for its strengths and to exploit and reinforce them.There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city;people make it and it is to them, not buildings, that wemust ﬁt our plans.
FORTUNE MAGAZINEAPRIL 1958
DOWNTOWN IS FOR PEOPLEJANE JACOBS
FORTUNE MAGAZINEAPRIL 1958