Jane Jacobs was an urbanist and activist who changed the way people look at cities.
Although she never received formal training as a planner, her book 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities' introduced powerful ideas about how cities work (and don't work), and influenced many architects, planners, activists and politicians.
"By its nature, the metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by traveling; namely, the strange." ― 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities'
Jacobs passed away in 2006, but her community-based approach to city building lives on, and this weekend people in cities all over the world will take part in Jane's Walk, two days of free walking tours and urban exploration.
The first Jane's Walk event took place in 2007 in Toronto, after then-mayor David Miller declared May 4 Jane Jacobs Day in the city (Jacobs was born on May 4, 1916). Since then, the Walk has expanded to over 75 cities in 15 countries.
"Being human is itself difficult, and therefore all kinds of settlements (except dream cities) have problems. Big cities have difficulties in abundance, because they have people in abundance." ― 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities'
The idea is to get out and discover parts of your city you may not be aware of. Each tour is organized and led by local volunteers, and is completely free of charge.
Any part of a city can be the subject of a Walk, from social housing slated for redevelopment to areas of cultural and architectural heritage.
"Neighborhood is a word that has come to sound like a Valentine. As a sentimental concept, 'neighborhood' is harmful to city planning. It leads to attempts at warping city life into imitations of town or suburban life. Sentimentality plays with sweet intentions in place of good sense." ― 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities'
One of the main principles underlying the Jane's Walk events is encouraging people to get out and move more often - not just this weekend, but as a part of their daily lives.
The website says, "We encourage people to get out and walk not just for recreation, but for basic tasks of daily life, shopping, schools and work. Walking not only improves health, it increases social cohesion and connection."
"(The pseudoscience of planning seems almost neurotic in its determination to imitate empiric failure and ignore empiric success.)" ― 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities'
To see what walks are being organized in your area, check out the map on JanesWalk.net (click the image below to see the live version).
"Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves." ― 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities'