Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Philosophers of Cities

"It is my view that not only were Mumford and Jacobs the two most important interpreters of the American urban experience in the twentieth century but that their typical, respective 'frames' for observing the city--the metropolitan scale or panoramic (Mumford) and the street level (Jacobs)--have, in practice, defined the basic analytical strategies employed by all observers of cities."

Larry Bennett, The Third City: Chicago and American Urbanism

It's a testament to Mumford and Jacobs that they defy simple distinctions. Jacob's reflections on the economies of cities are certainly more panoramic and theory driven while Mumford's writing on medieaval, organic cities certainly has a textured, street-level feel. Both were libertarian, both anti planners, both anti state, Jacobs claimed by advocacy planners and Mumford by regionalists with a penchant for Patrick Geddes. They shared so much in the ways they looked at and experienced cities but they had a spat that has been turned into conceptual contrast. I suspect much of the difference was a matter of sexism, generations, and competition.

No comments: