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Naked CityThe Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places$
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Sharon Zukin

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195382853

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195382853.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 October 2021

The Billboard and the Garden

The Billboard and the Garden

A Struggle for Roots

Chapter:
(p.193) 6 The Billboard and the Garden
Source:
Naked City
Author(s):

Sharon Zukin

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780195382853.003.0013

When Jane Jacobs wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities in 1960, death was all too evident around her. New York City’s port was shutting down, factories and neighborhoods hadn’t altered their look since the beginning of the century, and middle-class families were fleeing from declining public services and expanding dark ghettos to the suburbs. The city, it was clear, lay in the grip of two malevolent forces, government and developers, though Jacobs directed her ire at architects and bureaucrats, whose plans, she said, destroyed lively neighborhoods and extinguished all sparks of social life. In Jacobs’s view the monolithic office towers, large public housing projects, intrusive highways, and monumental cultural centers that marked postwar cities brought on a “great blight of dullness” and reduced residents to passive pawns. Followed to a logical extreme, these were not plans for growth; they were a design for catastrophe. The city’s life, on the other hand, required preserving the old streets, buildings, and blocks that seemed so old-fashioned, for these sustained the delicate fabric of social uses and cultural meanings that wove people together. On this authenticity the city’s future would depend. “Authenticity” was not a word in Jacobs’s vocabulary. She talked instead about density and diversity, about “character and liveliness,” and how to “avoid the ravages of apathetic and helpless neighborhoods.” For the most part, she advocated resisting overscale development and permitting good design of urban spaces to encourage community involvement. It is not clear that following her suggestions would have allowed cities to avoid the lack of investment in public institutions and the miscarriage of racial and social equality that depressed so many neighborhoods in the next generation. By now, though, we have enough critical distance from those neighborhoods to see them as “authentic,” and we can use our Jacobs-influenced vision to transform their authenticity into equity for all. We already use the streets and buildings to create a physical fiction of our common origins; now we need to tap deeper into the aesthetic of new beginnings that inspires our emotions.

Keywords:   Astoria, Beats, Central Park, Destination Culture, Freedom Tower, Grittiness, Jeanne-Claude, Moganshan Lu, New York magazine, Paris

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