Dark Age Ahead

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It's not just on T-Shirts , but in headlines , and in debates and lectures , not to mention the text and subtext of however many think pieces and scholarly contributions to urban theory.

And after November 8th, it's hard not to at least wonder what she would have made of it all. The question was certainly in the air last night, as a group of prominent Toronto scholars analyzed Jacobs' ongoing impact a century after her birth. Moderated by Urban Studies Chair Shauna Brail, the discussion looked at Jacobs' contributions—and their limitations in the 21st century context—from a multidisciplinary and intersectional range of of perspectives.

Shaun Brail introduces the speakers, image by Momin Ahmad. Speaking from an architectural point of view, the Daniels Faculty's Erica Allen-Kim presented Jacobs's organic, street-level approach as a critical reproach to the modernist architectural notion of "the city as a work of art.

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Even Late in Her Career, Jane Jacobs Made Predictions That Are Coming True Today

Jacobs helped "restore modernism to its humanist ideals," Allen-Kim argued, influencing the half-decade of architecture to come. Geography and Planning professor Paul Hess assessed Jane Jacobs' legacy through the expanded geography of urban planning. Following Allen-Kim's impressively nuanced and highly focused analysis, Hess explained how Jacobs' theories—which "changed planning"—helped shape Toronto's modern cityscape.

Citing "the planning of the St.


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Lawrence neighbourhood in the 80s Wetsbank's Mirvish Village proposal, image via submission to the City of Toronto. But where are Jacobs' limitations in ? Despite the empirical validity that bolsters much of Jacobs' ethos, Hess pointed out that she "did not really write much about race and class" instead offering "a prescription for built form.

Hess also added that Jacobs "had very little to say about the suburbs," while the famous maxim that 'new ideas need old buildings' needs recalibration in a culture of gentrification that fetishizes older built form.

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But this is a hopeful book as well as a warning. Jacobs draws on her vast frame of reference -- from fifteenth-century Chinese shipbuilding to zoning regulations in Brampton, Ontario -- and in highly readable, invigorating prose offers proposals that could arrest the cycles of decay and turn them into beneficent ones.


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  • Wise, worldly, full of real-life examples and accessible concepts, this book is an essential read for perilous times. From the Hardcover edition. Jane Jacobs is the author of several books, including the classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities , which redefined urban studies and economic policy, and the bestselling Systems of Survival.

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