I found out about the Jane Jacobs walk at an Urbanista Sydney meeting earlier this year. (Urbanista is a global, collaborative network amplifying the voice of women by supporting ideas, projects and actions that create positive change in our cities and communities.) At the time I was working with a place making organization, Place Partners, to coordinate a mural on a blank wall along with some other temporary space activation projects along one of Sydney’s most well-known streets—Oxford Street. I met other passionate women who were hosting their own walks and it inspired me to show off Parramatta Road and Norton Street, as I had noticed people saying a lot of generalized statements about both of those places since I moved there. I thought it was time to show off some my favorite places and local finds of the area while also using it as a chance to talk about some of the issues within the area relating to urban development.Read More
1. What is your relation to Jane Jacobs Walks?
We knew Jane Jacobs’ biography and her work, and we thought that she was a very interesting professional to learn from so we wanted to share her concepts and teachings with more women in Donostia-San Sebastian. In our group, Foro de las Mujeres y la Ciudad (Women and City Forum), we work in different lines to recognize women’s contribution to the cities and villages.
2. Why were you interested in hosting a walk in Donostia, Spain, and what was the goal?
In Donostia there have been a few groups and associations that have hosted Jane Jacobs’s walks for the last two years. Our Forum hosted one last year in order to know the women’s contribution in Donostia. We wanted to carry on hosting the walks to pay special attention to subjects related to women that normally are hidden and veiled, but fundamental for people’s life in cities. We try to promote urban planning through the community participation. This is why we try to share Jane Jacobs’ life with more people—especially women.
3. What is the contrast between women and women’s jobs in the 50’s compared to now in Spain?
We learned about jobs women did in Donostia at that time and we felt very privileged to have the women that lived in those years tell their personal story and share their testimonies. There are a few differences. For instance, many jobs have disappeared because clothing manufacturers took over in our societies and we do mostly purchase clothes instead of making them by hand. Therefore dressmakers have no chance to work the way they did then. Fishing is also a way of earning an income that has almost disappeared, so the net menders have not been able to work. This shows a fundamental change. Another issue that we learned is that working conditions have changed for better, for people used to work very long hours for very low wages. On the other hand, benefits of working in the 50’s were that there were more jobs, and more chances of entering the workplace as an apprentice to learn the profession through experience.
4. Do you have any stories from the walk, specifically with the women mentioned?
It was a great encounter to meet women of the different ages and share stories that showed how life was then. All of them could tell us many stories of how life was tough, but they showed solidarity throughout that time.
5. What is Women and City Forum and what is your role there?
It is a group of women that have been working since 1996 to research, to reflect, and to share knowledge about the future cities, taking into account the women’s perspective and the human beings’ basic needs.
6. What are your hopes for the future of Donostia with regards to Jane Jacobs Walks?
We hope to organize one every year and have more and more people coming to the walks.
7. What are your goals when you host a Jane Jacobs Walk for the participants?
We have three goals for our participants: to know Jane Jacobs trajectory, to promote activities to build and maintain the sense of community, and to recognize the women’s contribution in cities.
8. Anything else you would like to add?
It would be good to know more groups that do Jane Jacobs walk around the world and share experiences.
Explanation about the forum in Spanish
We want to give a huge thanks to Begoñia for doing this interview, as well as her contribution to Jane Jacobs Walks in Spain, Women and City Forum, and her community.
1. What is your relation to Jane Jacobs Walks?
I am a civil engineer, with M.Sc of structural engineering and I am working in "SUNGUN" copper mine as a civil engineer. I am interested in cultural discussions about my city and I am publishing a monthly magazine (attached to a newspaper) about construction industry. I was introduced to Jane Jacobs by one of my friends who is an architect. She knew that I am interested in walking in my city and in cultural topics.
2. Why were you interested in hosting a walk in Tabriz?
There are some places all over the world that are known to all people and there is no need for more explanations, but in Iran and in my area (East azarbaijan province) the people should know and see more. I had a trip to Malaysia with my wife two and a half years ago and I went to the "BATU" cave, which is a very famous place in Malaysia. In Iran, the East Azarbaijan province is full of beautiful mountains and natural phenomena’s that no one knows around the world. I want to show those places to the world.
3. Could you describe the walk in detail, as well as some of the photos and what they represent?
Because of the international media, people think some strange things about Iran that just aren’t true. There are some difficulties. Women must be covered, and some habits are not accepted, but the life is going on in its normal way. The photos show that a normal stream of life is carrying on. But my goal for the walk was to show how the history of a region is being erased, and the photos are the best way to show that.
4. What are your hopes for the future of Tabriz with regards to Jane Jacobs Walks?
When foreign tourists come to Iran they just travel to places like Isfahan and Shiraz. I wanted to say that there are more beautiful places to see, to walk, to enjoy.
5. What are your goals when you host a Jane Jacobs Walk for the participants?
I want the walker to not only enjoy the walk, but also the architecture, the history, the delicious food, the climate, and the whole city.
6. Anything else you would like to add?
I like walking around historical regions and I accept Jane's idea about relation between walking and soul of cities. Because of my job and my economical condition I cannot travel to many different countries, but I can invite people to share the joy of walking in Tabriz.
We want to give a huge thanks to Afshin for doing this interview, as well as his contribution to Jane Jacobs Walks in Iran.
If your interested in seeing the walk that Afshin did back in June, here is the link:
What is your relation to Jane Jacobs Walks?
Well I’m actually in IT for a living, and I do historical research as well. I started doing the walks around the neighborhood about 20 years ago through the International Buster Keaton Society. It was actually my son who introduced me to Jane Jacobs and her writings when he went off to college to study architecture and urban planning. So then I started reading her books, and when he showed me the Jane Jacobs Walk website, I started registering my walks.
Can you explain your walk a little more? Who is Buster Keaton, what is the Actor’s Colony?
Buster Keaton was a silent film comedian in the early 1900’s. He got his start in entertainment as a young kid in the family vaudeville act. Then his father discovered Muskegon and decided he would move his family during vaudeville’s off-season, but he also saw an opportunity for real estate in Muskegon. It was the first place where Buster was actually able to be a kid and enjoy his summers. The Actor’s Colony they created there was his community—a place for them to create and test out acts. They would have a bunch of fun in the summer at Muskegon, going out on the water, testing out acts at a theatre. Then when winter came they would go back on the road doing acts all over the U.S. When Buster started doing movies in Hollywood he would go back to Muskegon and show his family around because, even though he wasn’t born there, Muskegon was the place he always considered his home. So on the walk I show people sites related to Keaton and the Actor’s Colony, including a historical marker and a street named after Keaton. We usually spend about two hours pointing out where everything used to be and showing people something they might not have known about their neighborhood. The amusement park and the old theatre are long gone, as well as Buster Keaton’s family cottage, but there’s still a lot of history to show people. There’s a baseball field where Buster Keaton fell in love with the game. During his Hollywood days, if he couldn’t come up with some material for a film, he and the crew would go out and play a game of baseball.
Is that your goal for the participants of the walk, that they will see something new and learn something about their neighborhood that they never knew before?
Yeah, my goal is to point out something that someone doesn’t normally see in his or her familiar surroundings, and give them tidbits of local history that a lot of people might not know. Then when the convention on Keaton comes around in October I get to show people from all around the world the neighborhood that they’ve read about in history books on Keaton.
What is your interest in Buster Keaton, how did you come to know so much about his past?
Well when I was a kid I never really watched any silent films. I occasionally saw the Three Stooges or a Charlie Chaplin movie, but I had only seen one film of Keaton’s called The General. Then someone told me that a silent actor grew up in Muskegon, and it turned out to be Keaton. When I got older I thought that was interesting so I started doing research on him. I started to become the local history expert on Keaton, and I found out his third wife was still alive and living in California. I was working for a company that had a lot of phone books at the time, so I got in touch with her, and ended up visiting her in California where she gave me photos and lots of information on Keaton. I’m always a firm believer to never be afraid to call or ask, because you never know where it might lead you.
By this time I was known around town as the local historian on Keaton, which is why a woman from New Jersey called me to tell me she was starting a Buster Keaton fan club, and when it got big enough she would like to have a convention in Muskegon every year, and she asked me if I would like to join, and I said sure. That’s when she said, “congratulations, you are now our 7th member.” Since then we’ve had 21 conventions and I’ve hosted around 45 walks. The 22nd convention is scheduled for this October.
Anything else you would like to add?
Just that Keaton is an inspiration to a whole host of people from Johnny Depp and Jackie Chan, to many of the folks at Pixar, and even though he was born in Kansas, he called Muskegon his home. I just love sharing that information with people, as well as checking out cities that I visit, and sharing Jane’s mission. In the summer I host about one walk a month, and it’s so important to get people outside and show them the value of walkability.
We want to give a huge thanks to Ron for his continued interest in Jane Jacobs Walk, and the contribution he has made to her mission as well as his community for many years in Muskegon.
1. What is your relation to Jane Jacobs Walks?
The organization I work with, StayLocal, supports New Orleans’ independent businesses. StayLocal is a non-profit founded in 2001 that promotes buying, sourcing, and supporting local. Our parent organization, the Urban Conservancy (UC), works to catalyze equitable policies and practices related to the urban built environment and the local economy through research, education, and advocacy. We thought it would be great to host a Jane Jacobs Walk together because her theories align with our work.
2. Can you describe Stay Local a little more? How exactly do you promote local businesses?
StayLocal aims to raise the visibility and viability of the New Orleans’ local businesses. We do this through educating the public on the importance of shopping local and providing businesses with the resources they need to be successful.
We also advocate for independent businesses on the local and national levels to ensure policy represents the interests of small business owners. StayLocal conducts original research and publishes reports and studies that drive systematic change to support a vibrant local economy.
3. Why were you interested in hosting a walk in New Orleans?
Our walk focused on the “West Mag” economic corridor in Uptown New Orleans. We brought in local architect and neighborhood resident, Marilyn Feldmeier, to provide historical context and to give her perspective on what makes a successful economic corridor.
Marilyn told us that the corridor has always been an economic hub. Over the years, our transit modes played a major role in shaping the corridor. The Whole Foods on the block once housed mules when carriages were the main form of transit, and later it became a streetcar station as transportation modes evolved.
On our walk, we spoke to several local business owners including Blake Haney from Dirty Coast Press, a New Orleans themed retail shop, and Tom Lowenburg from Octavia Bookstore. Both owners provided a unique perspective on the corridor. Blake spoke about how the city’s distinct character inspires his work, and the effects of national chains in the corridor. Tom’s story focused on his policy work to level the playing field for brick and mortar retailers by ensuring fair and equal taxation of online goods.
In relation to Jane Jacob’s theories, the more we buy and source from businesses that are firmly rooted here in New Orleans, the more resilient we become.
4. What are your hopes for the future of New Orleans’ community, maybe something related to the walk you did?
I hope that this city stays vibrant and diverse! Locally owned businesses imbue New Orleans with its unique character and aura of authenticity. They are a big part of why people want to live, work, eat, shop, and play here.
5. What are your goals for the participants when you host a Jane Jacobs Walk?
I hope they gain perspective - that they think about something in a new way or see their city in a different light. Whether it is noticing a new store, learning about issues local business owners face, or identifying with the meaning behind Dirty Coast’s “Be a New Orleanian Wherever You Are” stickers, Jane Jacobs Walks encourage residents to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the places they call home.
6. Anything else you would like to add?
I moved to New Orleans five years after Katrina, and there were few national chains. The chains were slow to re-build, but the local businesses were among the first to come back. Our independent businesses keep this city alive, keep it flourishing, and keep it unique!
We want to give out a huge thanks to Meredith Cherney for doing this interview, as well as her contribution to Jane Jacobs walks, her service to her community, and the work she does at StayLocal.
If you want to learn more about subjects mentioned in this interview, here are some links:
Tell me a little bit about yourself, how you came to know about Jane Jacobs Walks?
I’m a recent graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, where I got my masters in City and Regional Planning. My work focuses on neighborhood planning, placemaking, and public space, particularly in low-income communities. I’m interested in dynamic community engagement techniques, including walking tours, which led me to run a series of Jane Jacobs Walks for my final graduate school masters project. The timing was also perfect as it was an opportunity to celebrate Jacobs’ 100th birthday.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the Walks you did at Chapel Hill?
I collaborated with the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership to run a four part event series under the name Dream up Downtown. Two of the walks explored the public spaces in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and the other two looked at the hidden elements of the built environment that give our cities a unique sense of place. The ‘hidden elements’ walks were inspired by the 99% Invisible Podcast. Local community members volunteered to help lead the walks, and in the end we had over 50 people participate in the event series. The walks garnered attention from the Mayor and other City officials, and as a result we ran an additional walk for City employees. We’ll also be running a couple more in the fall for incoming UNC students in the Planning and Public Administration programs.
Your walk focused on the small details of a city, and you mention the inspiration being the podcast 99 Percent Invisible, but was this also inspired by Jane Jacobs’ writings?
Absolutely. Jane Jacobs’ texts and ideas are ubiquitous in the study of planning, but I was curious about how well her theories are implemented in contemporary planning practice. In re-reading her work, it struck me that she believed deeply in the organic nature of cities, and that chaos is often the source of vibrancy, dynamism and a unique sense of place. One of the results of this chaotic, organic growth is that cities are often characterized by relics of the development process – things like historic architecture; idiosyncratic street designs; and aging infrastructure that keeps a city running, but goes unnoticed day to day. These elements of the built environment are central to the 99PI podcast, and also to Jacobs’ love for urbanism, which is how I came to develop the theme for the walks.
What are your goals for the Chapel Hill community as well as the participants of these walks?
Events like these have the power to encourage increased interest in and engagement with the future of our downtown. My hope is that the spring 2016 series was the beginning of a conversation about what is and isn’t working about our local public spaces, and who exactly they’re designed for and used by. I’d like to see a movement towards public spaces that are more inclusive for all members of the Chapel Hill community. I’m developing a guidebook for local community members who would like to organize and host their own walks. The guidebook is similar to the one provided by the Jane Jacobs Walk organization, but focuses on the unique nature of the Chapel Hill Community. By creating this resource I hope to ensure that Jane Jacobs Walks can continue in Chapel Hill in perpetuity.
Do you have any stories from your Jane Jacobs Walk?
On the first day of the event series we ran one of the public space walks and two little girls attended with their parents. We were walking through an alleyway between two buildings, and it was pretty overgrown. We were discussing what works and doesn’t work about the alley, and how it could be improved. During the conversation I overheard one of the kids say that she liked the alleyway as it was, with all the overgrowth, because it makes the space interesting. It was a great moment for me because this kid probably had one of the most insightful observations on the walk, and had unintentionally captured Jacobs’ ideas about organic growth and chaos in cities. It was also fascinating to watch the way in which the kids found creative ways to use and play in spaces that would otherwise be considered dead or underutilized. It was an experience that taught me to pay closer attention to how children interact with space – they have natural instincts that say a lot about the potential of the place.
We want to give a huge thanks to Mia Candy for doing this interview with us, and for her continuing dedication to her community at Chapel Hill as well as Jane Jacobs Walks.
If you’re interested in some of the things mentioned in this blog post here are some links: