Friend Reading Lists

As a rule, I’m willing to take at least one “you must read this” recommendation from each friend and acquaintance, more in the case of someone I’m closer to or have reason to think has similar tastes to my own. Sometimes they don’t even realize they’ve given me a recommendation. The advantage of this is a greater variety in reading material and education than I might come to on my own. Those lacking such recommendations can always look into literature classes via this course finding site.

An old friend that I’ve mostly lost touch with mentioned The Death and Life of Great American Cities years ago. At the time he was thinking about studying architecture, but he still has the book listed on his Facebook profile even today, so that seems as good an endorsement as any.

The book is 50 years old now, and its influence on the field is obvious even to me. I recognize her ideas from the little bit of previous reading I’ve done on city planning/urban development, and now I get to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Tthere’s an obvious comparison tomake between healthy neighbourhoods and healthy ecosystems. The different aspects of a neighbourhood, different businesses, residences, and public areas all feed off of and depend on each other. Thus, mixed-use land that develops organically tends to beat out hierarchical, planned and zoned neighbourhoods. Just as biodiversity is required for a healthy ecosystem.

It makes sense when you think about it. No one wants to live in downtown Winnipeg because there’s very little parking, limited options for grocery stores or other amenities. There’s a giant arena, but that just means people who can afford to migrate in for an event and then leave when it’s over. They come downtown for a single event but don’t stick around; of course they live elsewhere.

The idea of publicly building a major designed cultural centre to renew an area is 50 years out of date. Jacobs explained in 1961 why this fails to work, time and again. Why don’t our own politicians know better?

Compare our downtown to a vibrant area like Osborne Village, where the sheer amount of diversity, and the combination of business and residential use keep the place busy all night. Everything feeds on everything else. It’s symbiosis. Downtown is most active during the day, when the nine-to-five crowd migrates in for work, but dies at night.

This might be oversimplifying, but isn’t it astounding how cities can spend massive amounts of public money on initiatives that do not reach their goals? Shouldn’t the people making the decisions have more training and education before being called on to make or approve such proposals?

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