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École Spéciale d'Architecture (Travis)

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    Thanks Jane

    By TK. B
    Sep 20, '08 11:32 AM EST
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    So the other day I was walking around in the 18th arrondissement and as I was crossing the street to get to the metro, I realized the was an argument going on in the middle of the intersection between a woman, straddling a bicycle, and an older man. Then the man shoved the woman in defiance.

    Immediately, from all around, there were shouts from people scolding/threatening the man. The argument began to build from there as the woman tried to fight back. However several men jumped in to hold each back from the other. There was a lot more shouting but as I saw it was winding down I continued on to the metro. The argument started to die off to the sidewalk under the strain of the slowly encroaching traffic, trying to make it through the fray; someone picked up the bicycle the woman had left in the middle of the street to pursue the argument.

    Maybe it's because I recently read The Death and Life of Great American Cities over the Summer (finally, after half-assed glimpses from sections of the book for random architecture classes) that I found this event so interesting. This woman wasn't accompanied by anyone when the argument began and she and the man were more or less invisible in the crowd but though no one knew either of them, people were still watching and were obliged to step in once they thought a fight would break out. I don't know what the cause of the argument was but as soon as the man shoved the woman everyone was immediately on the side of the woman, regardless of what had happened before. However I do wonder also if this would have been the case if this had happened somewhere else in Paris as this part of the 18th is largely African and West Indian immigrants (and so was the woman; though the man was French). Anyway, I think Jane Jacobs would have hoped so.


     
    • 4 Comments

    • mantaray

      By contrast...

      I was walking around the 14th one day, and saw a walking man (with overcoat, briefcase) suddenly fall flat on the sidewalk, strike his head, and lay still. There was blood running out of his head and down the sidewalk. There were maybe 3 or 4 people in the area -- walking up and down the street -- and no one else seemed to notice. So I got a good vocab lesson via running to the closest phone booth and calling SAMU. ("il y a du sang!")

      The street was one of those nice, upper-middle class ones in the 14th, where families live in full-floor apartments in the newer concrete apartment towers. Street activity in this area was quite low and in fact I felt weirder / more vulnerable walking around there at night than I did in the 11th, even though the 11th is full of crazies. (And sure enough, I was once followed down there in the 14th for about 20 minutes or so, one of the scariest 20 minutes of my life, as no one -- NO ONE -- was around to intercede or to witness anything if it DID happen.) Anyway, I still haven't finished Life and Death so I don't know what she would have to say about areas like that.

      Sep 20, 08 11:50 am

      on my block where i grew up a man was stabbed about 10 times in the middle of the day. this was in dense city area. my friend stopped the attack and called the police. attacker ran away, but the attackee warned my friend he wasn't going to pay him for saving his life so fuck off. my friend told him to fuck off back and said he was welcome (not a joke).

      there were probably lots of people watching but the neighbourhood was terrorised by crime and so the attempted murder went on unstopped til it really was almost too late. sometimes (usually?) what is most important is social context.

      jacobs has good points and yet she knew very little about suburbia in spite of her extreme distaste for it (thank you william whyte), and she most certainly romanticised her corner of new york. she should be respected but taken with a bit of salt, just to be safe...;-)

      Sep 20, 08 8:37 pm
      mantaray

      Yeah, in fact the reason I haven't finished reading her is that I remember being vaguely annoyed by some of her assessments of her own NYC neighborhood when reading it. I remember thinking you could look at some of the same things she was talking about and see them completely inversely. Not to say you can't do that with almost any polemic, of course... I do mean to finish the book some day.

      Sep 20, 08 11:01 pm

      it is worth reading. just not worth being converted by.

      i think it was dejan sudjic (perhaps in the 100 mile city) who complained that she is essentially advocating for urbanism by standing on a house of fear and paranoia, and really that is not healthy. even if its necessary the idea that it should be the positive model for anything is frankly scary.

      Sep 21, 08 7:52 pm

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