Reading Jane Jacobs in New York in the summer of 1969 is, I imagine, a little like reading Walden in a Chinese commune. Mrs. Jacobs, former associate editor of Architectural Forum, has long been a critic of the steel and concrete style of grandiose urban renewal and a defender of the little neighborhood and the little shop; in The Economy of Cities, she has lifted the case for diversification to the level of economic theory. Yet her book often reads like a passion of worlds long gone, separated by continents and ages of time, a romance washed up from a distant shore, well reasoned, documented and persuasive, but mythic nonetheless. A fable of creation. Against the surliness of store clerks and bureaucrats, and against the brave new world of ABM and NASA, rises a cosmos of potters and saddlers, of pin makers and wheelwrights.
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