Preserved Stories Blog


Jane Jacobs contributed strongly to 1960s and 1970s intellectual currents

I recently came across a book, The Urban Wisdom of Jane Jacobs (2012), that positions Jane Jacobs as among the most influential thinkers who contributed to the intellectual currents of the 1960s and 1970s – “along,” as the book notes (p.2), “with Thomas Kuhn, Ian McHarg, Rachel Carson, Betty Friedan, John Rawls, to name a few.”

“It has,” the book continues, “become customary to associate these authors with a ‘paradigm shift’ in some aspect of human thought and practice. According to Max Page, the term applies well to the impact of Jacobs’s works and activism: after mistakes in urban renewal practices were laid bare in the 1960s, the city-building paradigm changed ‘not slowly and steadily but rapidly and radically, with Jane Jacobs leading the campaign’ (Page, 2011, p. 7).”

Not an academic

Walking south along Waterfront Trail. A wooden baffle is visible in the background. Jaan Pill photo

Walking south along Waterfront Trail during May 3, 2015 Jane’s Walk in Mississauga led by City of Mississauga Ward One Councillor Jim Tovey. A wooden baffle from the Long Branch Rifle Range, dating back from the 1890s, is visible in the background. Jaan Pill photo

As has been said frequently enough, Jane Jacobs was not an academic.

The book in question was written by academics – which is fine; while not an academic, Jane Jacobs moved freely across many ways of dealing with things, and as it happened, the academic world was among the realms that she moved across.

Click here for previous posts about Jane’s Walk >

Spaghetti Junction - The Farewell Tour. May 2 Jane's Walk led by Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP Peter Milczyn leaves Dundas Street West and moves toward the Six Points Interchange construction site. Jaan Pill photo

Spaghetti Junction – The Farewell Tour. May 2, 2015 Jane’s Walk led by Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP Peter Milczyn leaves Dundas Street West and moves toward the Six Points Interchange construction site. Jaan Pill photo

Mike James at the mike. Jaan Pill photo

New Toronto – Then and Now, At May 2, 2915 Jane’s Walk, Mike James shares his recollections of his teenage years in New Toronto. The other walk leader, Brian Liberty, is visible at the left of the frame. Jaan Pill photo

The above-mentioned study notes (p. 2) that “Jacobs disliked specialized knowledge and what she had to say never fits into neat disciplinary boxes. This may be why so many find her work appealing.”

The latter quote sums up her work well.

Jane’s Walk as walking conversation

My own involvement with Jacobs’ ideas comes through my involvement with local Jane’s Walks in the local community where I live, and in nearby communities. In leading such walks over several years, I worked with a friend, Mike James, to figure out how to turn a Jane’s Walk into a walking conversation.

The following post at the Jane’s Walk website provides a good overview of what we’ve learned:

Preserved Stories: A Walking Conversation

The sub-title for the above-noted post reads: “A Jane’s Walk can be viewed as a walking conversation. Or it can be viewed as a walking lecture. Sometimes, it starts as a lecture and ends as a conversation.”

A key point in the post is that I haven’t figured out what a Jane’s Walk is, in reality as contrasted to the rhetoric – and that is one of key things I like about such walks.

Contrast between Toronto and Mississauga with regard to a vision for the Lake Ontario Waterfront

Another topic that I’ve had the good fortune to explore, through walking conversations in a previous year, is the different visions that the City of Mississauga, and the City of Toronto, bring to addressing planning issues related to the development of the Lake Ontario shoreline in the respective cities. The topic is discussed in this blog post at the Jane’s Walk website:

Anecdotes Shared by Fellow Walkers: What we especially enjoyed were the anecdotes shared by so many different people

In 2015, I was involved with setting up of Jane’s Walks in nearby communities; I was no longer involved with the leading of such walks myself. The walks I was involved in are summarized in the following posts:

May 3, 2015 Jane’s Walk in Mississauga at Small Arms Building focused on the past, and the future

May 2, 2015 Jane’s Walks: (1) Spaghetti Junction – The Farewell Tour; (2) New Toronto – Then and Now 

Lynn Berry’s Dad was involved in the building of the Spaghetti Junction in the 1960s

One of the Jane’s Walks mentioned in the last-mentioned post has a direct connection to Malcolm Campbell High School. That walk was the one that focused on what’s known as the Spaghetti Junction, which is highlighted in greater detail at an earlier blog post:

Spaghetti Junction – The Farewell Tour: 10:30 am, Saturday, May 2, 2015 Jane’s Walk hosted and led by MPP Peter Milczyn

In a Comment at the latter post, MCHS Graduate Lynn Berry notes:

“My Dad was very involved with this project before he passed away. He worked alongside Peter Milczyn and Donna Cansfield. There was an article published in 2006 in the Toronto Star I believe which featured my Dad and Margaret Williams. He would be so happy to know that something is finally being done about this area of Islington.”

She also adds a link: A November 23, 2007 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Etobicoke is overdue: Look west, oh cash-strapped Toronto politicians. One answer to your financial woes might lie just the other side of the Humber River.”

1960s approaches to urban planning

In a response to Lynn Berry’s Comment, I noted:

“It’s most interesting to know of your connection with the project, through your Dad. I find the story really interesting on so many levels. There’s the history aspect – I like the Toronto Star’s reference to the fact that the Spaghetti Junction was designed in the days in the 1960s when much of the neighbourhood was still farmers’ fields.

“A school that I worked at in North York in the 1980s was still been farmers’ fields in the 1950s. A friend once spoke of the apple orchards that used to exist in the area. Similarly a school that I worked at in the late 1990s and early 2000s in Mississauga had been farmer’s fields not that many decades earlier.

“Meanwhile, the thought and planning that Peter Milczyn and your Dad and many other people have been involved in is also a source of much interest to me. So many people, so many meetings, so many processes must of necessity come together and be coordinated in order to untangle the Spaghetti Junction and construct a new Six Points Interchange. It will be a great Jane’s Walk.”

Farmers’ fields north of Montreal

The reference to farmers’ fields brings to mind in turn a blog post about Montreal:

Farmers’ fields north of Montreal is where the City of Laval was built

Everything is connected

Jane Jacobs is a source of much inspiration for many people. I so much like the above-noted quote from The Urban Wisdom of Jane Jacobs (2012) (p. 2) : “Jacobs disliked specialized knowledge and what she had to say never fits into neat disciplinary boxes. This may be why so many find her work appealing.”

My own involvement with Jane’s Walks, after four years of intensive involvement with them, is now pretty much phased out, except for consultation in the organizing of such walks, when they are led by other people. I’ve learned many things in the course of organizing such walks. My next area to focus upon involves documenting of such walks through still photos, and sound and video recordings, and focusing upon the exploration of a favourite question, which is: “What is a Jane’s Walk?”

 

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