Jane Jacobs did not believe that planners could ever restore life to American cities. Instead she put her faith in the chaos of urban life, in diversity, in people — the grocery store owner, the young mother, the child playing in the street, the watchful busybodies leaning out of windows. Cities were at their best, she wrote, when the “ballet of the sidewalks” was evident, a dance that was intrinsically “spontaneous and untidy.” Her prescription was simply not to get in its way.
As a demonstration of some of Jacobs’s most important ideas, such displays are excellent; they focus on
“four key qualities of healthy, vibrant cities”:
1) Streets should have mixed use, with retail and residences mingled.
2) Streets should be frequent, without too many long blocks, thus encouraging interaction and exploration.
3) Buildings should be varied in purpose and design and, ideally, date from different eras. And
4) urban concentration is important and encourages diversity.