Walking With Jane
Saturday May 2 saw Jane’s Walk come to Phoenix. No, this wasn’t a charity fundraiser, but a simple Saturday-morning stroll along a pre-determined route through the heart of downtown Phoenix.
Jane is (was) Jane Jacobs, an American-born Canadian urbanist, writer and activist, best known for The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), a powerful critique of the urban renewal policies of the 1950s in the United States that led to the vast unnatural sprawl and isolation that plagues our cities today.
Equally well known for her grass-roots organizing and interventions into poorly thought out urban renewal projects that threatened to destroy neighborhoods, her great strength was not simply critiqueing urban sprawl and blinkered urban planning, but offering solutions and proposing radically new principles for rebuilding American cities.
Jane’s Walk is a series of neighbourhood walking tours that helps put people in touch with their environment and with each other, by bridging social and geographic gaps and creating a space for cities to discover themselves. (www.janeswalk.net)
Jane’s Walk Phoenix joined Anchorage, Boston, Cambridge, Dayton (Ohio), Jackson (Mississippi), Moscow (Idaho), New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Orlando, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, Spanish Harlem (New York City), Starkville (Mississippi) and St. Louis on the 2009 list. It drew a healthy and mixed crowd. Organizer Yuri Artibise smartly selected a few locations along the way to stop and talk about related issues or the location’s history, which allowed laggers to catch up.
Mainly, though, the issues, histories and anecdotes flowed naturally through the group’s social interaction, as it snaked its way through downtown. This was no ‘tour’ but rather a series of ambulatory conversations intersecting at the point where people and city merge.
Jane’s Walk Phoenix 2009 descends on Roosevelt Historic Park
Differing opinions, different perspectives. Frustrations, experiences, hopes. Personal observations; who used to live here; where the best coffee can be had. It was also a great reminder of how much fun an ad-hoc community can be, and how easily and quickly one can be created.
And having worked in the heart of downtown for 6 years, exploring it freely, it was personally pleasing – and suprising – to find new interesting places. This city continues to reveal itself, repaying
but a minimal investment: a little shoe leather. Thanks, Jane – see you next year!
Jane’s Walk 2009 (all cities)
Thanks Nick, your review captured the essence of what i was trying to achieve in planning the walk. not only celebrating the life and work of Jane Jacobs and the reemergence of downtown Phoenix, but creating a community and finding the hidden treasures that the city has to offer. I’m glad you had a good time. Hopefully our paths will cross before next year’s walk(s).
Stay tuned to Hoozdo and The Grid who will be revisiting Jane periodically throughout the year.