A genealogy: #Holly Whyte, #Jane Jacobs and #Jane’s WalkCHICAGO

Crawling into the dog days of August, there was a terrific blog post on the website of The Project for Public Spaces this week (and also on Twitter), summarizing the career of William (“Holly”) Whyte.  As a recovering New Yorker, I knew some of his story, but this post added lots of fascinating and informative context for people who are interested in the evolution of thinking about cities.

For me, the key points in the post were that “Whyte led the charge to re-center cities around people … While an editor at Fortune Magazine… he published Jane Jacobs’ ‘Downtown is for People’ in Fortune and in his compilation The Exploding Metropolis (1957), which allowed [Jane Jacobs] to expand her essay into The Death and Life of Great American Cities in 1961 after receiving a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.”

Whyte went on to write a number of seminal books, including Cluster Development (1964) and The Last Landscape (1968), and The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980). In a nutshell, he argued that design should start with a thorough understanding of the way people use spaces, and the way they would like to use spaces. We could change things, Whyte said, “if we will look.”

“If we will look” pretty much summarizes the goals of Jane’s WalkCHICAGO, and all of the Jane’s Walk programs all over the world.  I hope that as we expand this effort (which I’ll be writing about in future posts), you’ll accompany me in this compelling mission.

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