Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Weird Wisdom

"[T]he least we can do is to respect--in the deepest sense--strips of chaos that have a weird wisdom of their own not yet encompassed in our concept of urban order."

Jane Jacobs, quoted in, Jane Jacobs Urban Visionary, by Alice Sparberg Alexiou.

So much is packed into this observation about the neighborhoods and businesses of East Harlem in the 1950s. It's full of unexpected juxtapositions -- "strips of chaos, weird wisdom, urban order." Simply, we don't really understand how neighborhoods and cities work -- our conventional ideas get in the way and do harm. Yet she asks us to "respect" what we don't understand.

In too many cases the "experts" didn't heed her advice and instead cleared the slums for the purposes of simplicity.

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