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Downtown is for People

Downtown is for People

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Published by farrahkarapetian
Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs

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08/17/2013

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DOWNTOWN
IS FOR PEOPLE
JANE JACOBS
FORTUNE MAGAZINEAPRIL 1958
JANE JACOBS
FORTUNE MAGAZINEAPRIL 1958
The article concluded FORTUNE's series on the exploding metropolis. The series,which began with "Are, Cities Un-American?" (September, 1957), included "The Cityand the Car" (October), "New Strength in City Hall" (November), "The EnduringSlums" (December), and "Urban Sprawl" (January).
 
JANE JACOBS
FORTUNE MAGAZINEAPRIL 1958
.
DOWNTOWN IS FOR PEOPLEJANE JACOBS
FORTUNE MAGAZINEAPRIL 1958
This year is going to be a critical one for the future of the city. All over the country civic leaders andplanners are preparing a series of redevelopment projects that will set the character of the center of ourcities for generations to come. Great tracts, many blocks wide, are being razed; only a few cities havetheir new downtown projects already under construction; but almost every big city is getting ready tobuild, and the plans will soon be set.What will the projects look like? They will be spacious, parklike, and uncrowded. They will feature longgreen vistas. They will be stable and symmetrical and orderly. They will be clean, impressive, andmonumental. They will have all the attributes of a well kept, dignified cemetery. And each project willlook very much like the next one: the Golden Gateway office and apartment center planned for SanFrancisco; the Civic Center for New Orleans; the Lower Hill auditorium and apartment project for Pitts-burgh; the Convention Center for Cleveland; the Quality Hill offices and apartments for Kansas City; thedowntown scheme for Little Rock; the Capitol Hill project for Nashville. From city to city the architects'sketches conjure up the same dreary scene; here is no hint of individuality or whim or surprise, no hintthat here is a city with a tradition and flavor all its own.These projects will not revitalize down-town; they will deaden it. For they workat cross-purposes to the city. They ban-ish the street. They banish its function.They banish its variety. There is one no-table exception, theGruen Planfor FortWorth; ironically, the main point of it hasbeen missed by the many cities thatplan to imitate it. Almost without excep-tion the projects have one standard so-lution for every need: commerce, medi-cine, culture, government-whatever theactivity, they take a part of the city's life,abstract it from the hustle and bustle ofdowntown, and set it, like a self-sufficient island, in majestic isolation.There are, certainly, ample reasons for redoing downtown—falling retail sales, tax bases in jeopardy,stagnant real-estate values, impossible traffic and parking conditions, failing mass transit, encirclementby slums. But with no intent to minimize these serious matters, it is more to the point to consider whatmakes a city center magnetic, what can inject the gaiety, the wonder, the cheerful hurly-burly that makepeople want to come into the city and to linger there. For magnetism is the crux of the problem. Alldowntown's values are its byproducts. To create in it an atmosphere of urbanity and exuberance is nota frivolous aim.
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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.
JANE JACOBS
FORTUNE MAGAZINEAPRIL 1958
.
DOWNTOWN IS FOR PEOPLEJANE JACOBS
FORTUNE MAGAZINEAPRIL 1958
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