Urban Anthropologists, Andy and Carolyn London interview some of New York City’s more overlooked citizens.
Kaid Benfield captures the colours of a New York City evening in this video slideshow.
All images (c)2011 by F. Kaid Benfield. Music: Sharon Shannon featuring Kirsty MacColl, “Libertango” (via YouTube Audio Swap)
A libertarian take on urban renewal. Filmmaker Jim Epstein read The Power Broker—the biography of Robert Moses—and set out to document one of the communities destroyed by Moses’ urban renewal of the 1950s.
Epstein found a number of folks who lived in a black community up on West 99th Street that was cleared by Moses’ Manhattantown project:
“In 2007, Epstein started digging through the archives and interviewing residents to learn more about the neighborhood that had vanished. From this work, he created a 7-minute documentary portrait of the old community…”
Cross-posted on Jane’s Walk Phoenix.
The Guardian’s Ned Beauman is re-reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities to mark the books fiftieth anniversary. While doing so, he comments that Jane Jacobs’s book captures not just the rich density of urban life, but the craft of fiction.
Here are a few passages from his article:
Rereading: The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
Jacobs, who died in 2006, never published any fiction herself, but she certainly had a novelist’s sensitivity to human relations. She argues in Death and Life, for instance, that one of the paradoxical advantages of urban existence is privacy. In contrast to the suburbs, a dense neighbourhood has lots of convenient places to stop and chat, so you can be on friendly terms with dozens of people who live or work near your home without ever feeling the slightest obligation to invite any of them inside for tea:
“Under this system, it is possible in a city-street neighbourhood to know all kinds of people without unwelcome entanglements, without boredom, necessity for excuses, explanations, fears of giving offence, embarrassments respecting impositions or commitments, and all such paraphernalia of obligations which can accompany less limited relationships.”
If these things had truly been lost to New York, we would never have got Seinfeld, but the point still stands. How many professional city planners have considered everyday life so carefully that they’ve remembered to take all the nanophysics of social awkwardness into account?
Plenty of the requirements Jacobs sets out for building a healthy and diverse urban community can be applied with real success to building a vivid and plausible fictional community. Death and Life, in other words, is a sort of accidental creative writing textbook – perhaps appropriately so, because Jacobs’s beloved West Village was itself full of writers. Early on, Jacobs says:
“Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvellous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of pavement use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance.”
But the art form of the city is not really dance. The art form of the city, described so well in that passage, is the novel.
[Originally posted on Jane's Walk Phoenix.]
I came across this post by Seth Godin over the weekend. While he was talking about why New York City attracts so many tourists, I got to thinking that his list can be applied more broadly.
It occurred to me that what Seth believes makes cities attractive to tourists also makes it interesting to urbanists and urbanites.
Here is his list:
- It’s different here (as in not the same)
- You can find someone to have an argument with, about just about anything
- There are fringes–cultural, educational, architectural, societal
- More than 42 languages are spoken at the Queens public library
- You can get something that’s not the regular kind
- There are profit-seekers who will happily sell you something, anything
- There are many who do things for no profit at all and will eagerly entertain, entrance and change you for the better
- You will find a diversity of religious belief like no other
- It’s changing
- The food hasn’t been entirely homogenized
- People are active
- A stranger will go out of his way for you, perhaps, and more often than you expect
- There is more information per minute, per meter and per interaction
- Neighborhoods are more important than homogeneity, and co-existing is most important
As you can see, these characteristics are limited to just New York city, or even cities in general. As Seth said:
There are New Yorks going on in towns large and small, in companies big and tiny and in families that support and respect at the same time they embrace and encourage difference.
What do you think of Seth’s list? It is accurate? Can it be applied in other areas? Let me know in the comments.
- Seth Godin TED Talk On Tribes (onewaylinkbuilder.com)
Last week I brought-you the Colour of Cities, features Flickr mash-ups. This week it is time to play with Goole Maps. Rorschmap is a Google Maps mashup by James Bridle that creates kaleidoscopic views of cities and other locations from around the world.
Note: The kaleidoscope works best in Safari and Chrome on Mac. Firefox and iPhones/iPads will struggle. Not sure about PCs.
- Rorschach’s New York ID (miksplace.wordpress.com)
This video by Oikofugic Productions features interviews with cyclists about their bike commute in New York City and the impact of bike lanes.
I came across YouAreListening.to this morning. It is a really cool site bashed on a simple mashup by Eric Eberhardt. Eric combines an audio soundtrack of music, a police department radio stream, and an evocative image of the city. Combined, these sounds and images immerses the audience into the atmosphere of the city.
Here is this week’s list of articles for urbanists:
- 200th Birthday for the Map That Made New York: Described by some historians as the single most important document in New York City’s history, the right-angled layout spurred unimagined development. (New York Times)
- City Livability Rankings, and the struggle for the Complete City: Vancouver’s Director of City Planning, Brent Toderian, looks at Vancouver’s status as the worlds’ most livable city and the work left to be done. (Planetizen)
- The Increasing Importance of Physical Location: Why information technology will increase the value of dense urban areas and accelerate the movement of people into cities. (Harvard Business Review)
- Why Cities? But cities don’t thrive or survive when approached with an attitude framed by individual or corporate (the new “individual”) necessity. (CityTank)
This slideshow from Grist takes a tour of the top ten cities in the world for walking. The cities included are from a new list from travel publisher Lonely Planet and include Prague, Boston and Melbourne.
A great city is a great walking city. So which is the greatest of them all? Travel book publisher Lonely Planet just surveyed its readers and asked them to pick the best walking cities in the world from a list of 186. Take a stroll through the top 10, counting down to the city that readers rated No. 1, and see if your favorite made the cut.
From Lonely Planet:
One of the best ways to get to know a place is one of the easiest – just walk around it. So we asked you: What are your favourite cities to walk around?
You voted for 186 different cities. London topped the list, closely followed by New York City, Paris, Rome, then Prague.
Here’s the list of the 20 walking cities (according to popular vote):
Through his Yurbanism brand, Yuri Artibise explores the ‘Y’ of urbanism by sharing ways to make our cities more livable, community-oriented places one block at a time.