American-Canadian of this urban planning disease Ebenezer Howard’s Utopian

American-Canadian author, journalist and activist Jane Jacobs
believed that the curse of modern urban planning and rebuilding was actually
destroying the lifeblood of the city and that planners and architects were scientifically
dissecting the essence of the urban experience. She began crusade with what she
believed was the start of this urban planning disease Ebenezer Howard’s Utopian
Garden City. Howard appalled by the putrid, overcrowded, disease and crime
infested slums of late 19th century London, proposed a radial
decentralized series of smaller cities aimed at separating programs into zones
for industry, residents, commerce and culture all focused on providing access
to bands of open natural space. Jacobs eviscerated Howard, saying: “he set
spinning powerful and city-destroying ideas”1.
She believed that by separating and simplifying uses, reducing the city to bands
of self-containment and supposedly predetermining the need of the city Howard
exerted almost paternalistic authority over the city and left no room for what
she termed “the intricate many-faceted, cultural life of metropolis”2.

Le Corbusier’s Radiant city which was inspired by Howard’s
Garden City was no better according to Jacobs. Taking Howard’s ideas and translating
them vertically for higher densities. His bold, tall skyscrapers and diagrammatic
planning was easily interpreted in an instant and this simplicity was devoured by
architects, planners and developers as the future. Irrespective of its failure
to address the culture, emotion and intricate interactions of the city.

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Indeed, Jacobs observed, this influence can be felt in the
vast majority of modern-day cities are crude carbon copies of carbs Radiant
City with the idea of renewal begin bulldozing neighbourhoods to erect
low-income housing projects, reflecting curbs, massive vertical super blocs situated
in open green spaces. However, Jacob testifies, “this typology disconnects
humanity, transforming the interior green spaces and unpoliced upper corridors
into heavens for brutal crime, rather than fostering the sense of belonging and
common civic decency found in more diverse multi-use areas. Le Corbusier sought
to maximize green space and the connection to light and air, but instead
provided a cultureless, protected petri dish for the ills of a disconnected society
to flourish. Jacobs believed that Le Corbusier failed to observe, study and
respect the workings on an actual city. Rather than addressing the needs issues
and interactions of the city environment, his theory dismissed them and instead
implanted created urban landscape that had no basis or relationship with the
existing atmosphere. Furthermore, Jacobs indicates that grass and trees are not
the keys to the kingdom: “City people seek the sight of emptiness, obvious
order and quiet. Nothing could be less true”3.
Jacobs believed that it is precisely the gritty chaos, noise, density and
diversity that is the heartbeat of the city and it is these influences that
define the urban experience and create the unique and complex street ballet
that powers the city. It seemed that Le Corbusier was uninterested in dealing the
messy gritty reality of cities choosing instead to circumvent them or simply
ignore them by creating a new cleaner subservient fantasy.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random
House, 1961.


2 Jacobs,
Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House,

3 Jacobs,
Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House,


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