Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jane Jacobs vs. William Whyte

Have Jane Jacobs' ideas harmed the planning process in New York? Does her work present the proper framework for current planning? Andrew Manshel of the Greater Jamacia Development Corp (in Queens) argues the planning process is too Jacobian and should be informed by the work of William Whyte instead. Manshel's piece is worth reading, but here is his concluding remarks:
More attention ought to be paid to the finely grained thinking of William H. Whyte and less to Jacobs's overblown pronouncements and unprovable theories. Whyte was a close observer of people's behavior in public spaces and emphasized the importance of the many subtle design features that make people comfortable in parks, plazas and public buildings. Following Whyte, designers, planners and community members need to pay more attention to proven, good ideas, to established data and to the fine points of landscapes and buildings. His ideas have inspired successful projects in New York (Bryant Park), Detroit (Campus Martius) and Houston (Discovery Green). Amanda Burden, the current chair of the New York City Planning Commission, considers herself a Whyte protégée. She recognizes that planners need to be skillful listeners and that good planning requires attention to details. A revised City Charter should incorporate these values, too. The current process gives too much voice to the loud, the ill-considered and the obstructionist.

I don't really see William Whyte and Jane Jacobs as exclusive from each other, but the larger point about process is intriguing.

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