The Common Sense of Placemaking – Olivia Papa

Something that I found really intriguing in this week’s reading was the emphasis on Jane Jacob’s ability to understand community development in a real-life, applicable approach by using “empirical observation” and “community intuition.” Though critics devalued her work because it was grounded essentially in common sense, and not in “traditional” scientific knowledge, I began to see so much more logic in Jacob’s approach. The only way to really understand a city and its people is through concrete, authentic experiences with said city. I especially like when she critiqued architects and politicians for idealizing modern planning methods. Those methods work in theory and on paper, giving planners a false sense of a “utopian ideals symbolizing progress and modernism.” In reality, however, those ideals can’t pan out, which is why truly experiencing a city is more effective. It gives you a specific insight into the city’s issues and in turn offers tangible solutions to its problems.

The reading continues by saying that those traditional approaches only reinforce the “institutions and power-structures of exclusive decision-making processes.” From that, I took away that it promises a physical growth of the city, but does nothing to actually help its people (except in theory). In reality, it does nothing to add to their wealth, their safety, or their happiness. It was refreshing and inspiring to hear that Jacob’s models were based in “grassroots-level functions, neighborhood and community institutions,” and “people-driven decision making promises.” Jacob’s may have been critiqued for these seemingly basic answers, but I think years later, we can see that the only effective approach to city planning are in fact the common sense answers that involve the unification of an entire community.

Below I’ve added a picture that I took a couple years ago by Washington Square Park. The Village is a really unique and diverse place, and the picture reminded me of the discussion we had last week, about how Jane Jacob’s essentially saved Lower Manhattan by opposing the proposed expressway.

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