There was a tangible moment during last week’s class when I realized how important Jane Jacobs really was, and how seminal her writings on the american city were to the urban planning and architecture community were. I also learned, between last week’s class and this week’s readings, that if you’re making people mad, then you’re probably doing something right. And boy did Jane Jacobs make people mad, for good reason. She had the courage to say things that, coming from a non-professional background, made professional architects and city planners angry. She challenged the status quo and essentially told an entire school of thought that they were going about things entirely wrong. As an uneducated woman she was the object of scorn for city planners and yet she stood firm against such giant figures as Robert Moses.
The reading this week helped me see how influential her writing and activism has been in the placemaking community as well, and through this I have finally found a solid understanding, appreciation, and acceptance into the concept of placemaking. Additionally, I have at least in part solidified more of my expectations of this class thanks to understanding more about the goals and objectives of placemaking. The piece by the Project for Public Spaces made a point of beginning a project with “small-scale, do-able improvements” for immediate benefits to communities. Of course this sounds much like the projects done so far by previous placemaking classes here at Umbra and our own class as well. This piece helped contextualize our own work in class within the larger goals of placemaking and has helped me realize more of the long term goals that begin with smaller projects. I was already excited about the projects our class would accomplish, but I would have been lying if I hadn’t said they sounded a but underwhelming. But thanks to my expanded understanding of placemaking, I know have a greater respect for both the scale and the process involved with successful placemaking and really helping a community.