Andres Duany on Jane Jacobs

At intervals of a decade or so, I reread what I consider to be the great books of architecture. The real standbys have been Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction, Le Corbusier's Towards a New Architecture, Rem Koolhaas' Delirious New York and Jane Jacob's Death and Life. Depending on my stage in life--and on ambient circumstance--they become different books, with seeming way more relevance. Death and Life is now ascendant in my estimation, while the others are actually sounding a bit foolish. The books haven't changed of course, but I have, and so has the general prospect. I am now a 37-year veteran of practice; and the 21st Century is rather up to its neck in environmental, economic and social crises. The conceptual and the aesthetic now seem to matter much less; and what does is good, practical knowhow about normal humans and the places that serve them well--particularly the modest ones. What is so compelling about Jacobs is that real people with all their foibles come first; and architects when appearing at all are dangerous fools. This coincides with my personal experience. I must emphasize that the modest pragmatism that I now value is not a surrender of ideals, but the result of mature consideration. To read Jacobs is to be in the presence of an adult. This time around the others read variously like the works of a charming scoundrel, a wild-eyed teenager, and a self-indulgent child. I leave it up to you to guess which is which. - Andres Duany, 2012.


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