It was the 100th anniversary of Jane Jacobs‘s birth last week. She was passionate about cities, and creating opportunities for connection in the built environment. I believe that it is both the connections that we share with each other and with ourselves in human-scale cities that create a sense of place. When we build and layer our connections to a city, in all its dynamism and unpredictability — as well as its comforting familiarity — it becomes as complex a relationship as any we might have with another being. This is how we make creatures of our cities.
I love this graphic from http://www.curbed.com as an illustrated primer on Jane Jacobs and her ideas. It’s pretty NYC-centric; if you don’t live there you may not be familiar with the name Robert Moses, famous for (among other things of course) displacing low-income neighborhoods — often neighborhoods of color — in order to build highways through them.
Here’s a more critical look at the consequences of some of Jacobs’ ideas — really a critique of the carrying out of those ideas, rather than the ideas themselves, which points out:
Without commitments to affordable and public housing and even the regulation of rent, any change to a neighborhood that increases its real-estate values will inevitably lead to increased urban inequality.
True. Let us commit to equality in our communities.
For Hatch, I created a site-specific solo piece based on City Creature research and musings. It was created and staged on February 28, 2015 at Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland. Enjoy photos and what I could re-create of the script at the link to the Hatch Performance Collective’s website.
A new Instagram account documents Hot Dudes Reading on the New York City subways. City Creatures, literally and literary. This of course joins a long line of similar photo blogs, including Underground New York Public Library — but they’re not just candids of readers. They’re candid portraits of strangers, capturing the way we see each other in cities and allow us to expand our understanding of what we see in those moments. I’d include Humans of New York on this list: it also includes portraits of anonymous city dwellers, though it has the distinction of explicitly giving voice to its subjects.
All these blogs tell snippets of stories with each image, whether the true stories of HONY, the implied stories of UNYPL, or the fantasies of HDR. The snapshots show present us with strangers, and also with possibilities for connection, however fleeting, however imaginary.
The three that I’ve mentioned so far are all based in New York City. Here’s a multi-city Instagram, called We Never Met.