Where are all the people?

Owen Hatherley

  • Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs by Robert Kanigel
    Knopf, 512 pp, £34.00, September 2016, ISBN 978 0 307 96190 7
  • Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs edited by Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring
    Random House, 544 pp, £16.99, October 2016, ISBN 978 0 399 58960 7

In Enrica Colusso’s film Home Sweet Home, about the recently ‘decanted’ Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, southeast London, a town planner explains why nearly all the buildings around him – a large council estate and a covered shopping centre – have to be demolished. They’re not real streets, he says. They’re monocultures – allowing for just one type of thing, housing here, shopping there – and worse than that, they’re mono-tenure, one gigantic ‘project’ of poor people put in one place. The people in them are ‘socially excluded’ by being placed in great single-class ghettos. Such places are lifeless, homogeneous, boring, the result of ‘top-down’ rather than ‘bottom-up’ planning.

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