Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Resources for Studying Urban Design History Available at Ball State University Libraries

Robert Moses' plan for Washington Square Park,
Wrestling with Moses, Anthony Flint

Wrestling with Moses, Anthony Flint

Wrestling with Moses, Anthony Flint

Street map of Greenwich Village, 1964
GIS Research and Map Collection

Washington Square Park neighborhood, 
New York Photo Atlas, Atlas Collection

Google Celebrates Urban Planning Activist:  Saving the Village in New York

Google is known for celebrating important holidays, anniversaries, and events with their “Doodles” that transform the logo on the Google homepage in an artistic way.  Since 1998, Google has created over 2,000 doodles, and today’s (top, click to enlarge) celebrates the 100th birthday of Jane Jacobs, a journalist who became a leading activist for preserving unique urban design.

Jacobs began her career in New York, writing for the U.S. State Department and then Architectural Forum in 1952, where she wrote about urban planning.  Jacobs resisted the ideas that urban development equaled removing neighborhoods considered “urban blight.”

Jacobs began researching the field of urban design with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.  In 1961 Jacobs published her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, as a product of her research.  The book became one of the most influential sources in American urban planning.

In the 2001 book, Visionaries: People and Ideas to Change Your Life by Jay Walljasper and Jon Spayde (available in the General Collection of Bracken Library), Jacobs’ book is celebrated:

In 1961, at the height of urban planners’ crusade to obliterate all the charming, lovable parts of American cities and replace them with sharp-angled monuments to modernist rationality, an unassuming New York writer defended the urban neighborhoods. …Jane Jacobs celebrated what nearly everyone else called slums and eyesores: the close-knit urban neighborhoods under assault by superhighways and high-rise housing projects.

In that same year, Jacobs’ urban design standards would be put to the test.  Robert Moses was a city planner who designed a high-rise development (above, click to enlarge) and “slum clearance” in Greenwich Village, Jacobs’ neighborhood.  Moses’ plan also included building an expressway through Washington Square Park.  

Jacobs organized a committee to stop the expressway and preserve the park.  She led marches and community events against its demolition, and Jacobs and the residents of the neighborhood successfully blocked the project.  Greenwich Village today has been preserved as the unique, quaint neighborhood Jacobs appreciated.

Ball State University Libraries has a copy of Jacobs’ book in the General Collection of Bracken Library, as well as many books devoted to Jacobs' design philosophy and activism.  The Architecture Library includes a large collection of books and DVD’s devoted to Jane Jacobs’ urban design influence. 

The Atlas Collection on the second floor of Bracken Library includes resources about the development of New York and other American cities, including A Historical Atlas of the Industrial Age and the Growth of America’s Cities; Manhattan in Maps, 1527-1995; Mapping Boston; and Los Angeles in Maps.

For more information about these resources, please contact the GIS Research and Map Collection at 765-285-1097.

1 comment:

Kelly Carter said...

I check this Blog pretty much every week and always when there is something big happening on the news. But this post about Jane Jacobs is the best! I just started a summer project on urban design, and I'm definitely going to visit the GRMC and Architecture Library. I appreciate that you are always teaching about so many current topics in maps and GIS and history and current events. Excellent!