Manifesto from 1987 says urban neighborhoods require “many, separate, distinct buildings”

Old Urbanist’s post inspired me to read Jacobs and Appleyard’s “Toward an Urban Design Manifesto” of 1987.  It’s worth a read, but don’t take my word for it, here are a few teasers.  In the prologue, Jacobs writes: “What follows, then, is an assertion of what urban places ought to be.  That is what manifestoes are all about.”  The authors share their list of general goals for urban life — livability; identity and control; access to opportunity, imagination, and joy; authenticity and meaning; community and pubic life; urban self-reliance; and an environment for all — and then get manifesto-ing:

“We have some ideas, at least, for how the fabric or texture of cities might be conserved or created to encourage a livable urban environment.  There are five physical characteristics that must be present if there is to be a positive response to the goals and values we believe are central to urban life: livable streets and neighborhoods; some minimum density of residential development as well as intensity of land use; an integration of activities — living, working, shopping — in some reasonable proximity to each other; a manmade environment, particularly buildings, that de- fines public space (as opposed to buildings that, for the most part, sit in space); and many, many separate, distinct buildings with complex arrangements and relationships (as opposed to few, large buildings).”

Did they say many, separate, distinct buildings are required for a “livable” (I’m not a fan of the word) urban environment?  Yes, and to elaborate: “Diversity, the possibility of intimacy and confrontation with the unexpected, stimulation,are all more likely with many buildings than with few taking up the same ground areas.  For a long time we have been led to believe that large land holdings were necessary to design healthy, efficient, aesthetically pleasing urban environments.

“Architects of both ideological persuasions promulgated or were easily convinced of the wisdom of land assembly.  It’s not hard to figure out why.  The results, whether by big business or big government, are more often than not inward-oriented, easily controlled or controllable, sterile, large-building projects, with fewer entrances, fewer windows, less diversity, less innovation, and less individual expression than the urban fabric that existed previously or that can be achieved with many actors and many buildings.

“With smaller buildings and parcels, more entrances must be located on the public spaces, more windows and a finer scale of design diversity emerge.  A more public, lively city is produced.  It implies more, smaller groups getting pieces of the public action, taking part, having a stake.  To keep public frontages alive, free from the deadening effectsof offices and banks, small buildings will help more than large ones. There need to be large buildings, too, but they will be the exception, not the rule.”  Full essay here.

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