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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What We See is a fascinating book.
What We See is a fascinating book about how the life and work of Jane Jacobs influenced the lives of so many people from different fields such as science, architecture and politics. There is a lot of information in this book. It should be read slowly to truly reflect and learn something from it. There is a study guide at the end of the book. The study guide questions...
Published on May 31, 2010 by Robert G Yokoyama

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars uneven but sometimes engaging
This book is a collection of essays based loosely on the work of Jane Jacobs (most known for her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, although she wrote numerous other books). Many of the essays are quite unimpressive, stringing together clichés or telling me what I already knew.

However, a few are noteworthy. I was engaged by:...
Published on August 17, 2010 by Michael Lewyn


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars uneven but sometimes engaging, August 17, 2010
This review is from: What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs (Hardcover)
This book is a collection of essays based loosely on the work of Jane Jacobs (most known for her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, although she wrote numerous other books). Many of the essays are quite unimpressive, stringing together clichés or telling me what I already knew.

However, a few are noteworthy. I was engaged by:

*Ray Suarez's overview of suburban sprawl. Suarez points out that parents often move to suburbia for the benefit of children, but in some ways this experiment has failed, as suburbs "required more adult oversight, not less ... scrubbing the environment of outsiders heightened stranger anxiety rather than alleviating it." (But I question the causal relationship Suarez draws; perhaps stranger anxiety has risen in city adn suburb alike).

*Robert Sirman's essay is one of the better examples of how Jacobs' views can be applied in unfamiliar contexts. Sirman helped expand a ballet school in Toronto; rather than turning the school inward, away from the street, Sirman sought to revitalize the street- for example by supporting a nearby restaurant's attempt to open an outdoor patio, on the grounds that it would provide "eyes on the street" and thus make it seem less deserted.

*Hillary Brown's discussion of how "mixed use" can be applied to unfamiliar contexts- not just putting apartments above shops, but also adding various types of infrastructure together (for example, a Dutch bridge that accommodates not only pedestrian and vehicle traffic, but tramlines and utilities).

*Clare Cooper Marcus's discussion of attempts to combine the advantages of cul-de-sacs with the advantages of grids. (This essay was, however, far too pro-cul-de-sac for my taste, downplaying the reduced walkability of cul-de-sacs by seemingly taking it for granted that children would have no place to walk to outside their own block).

*Saskia Sassen's discussion of regional economic diversity, in which she suggests that cities' economic specializations are deeply rooted in their early 20th-century history, and thus tries to explain why (for example) New York is more dependent on finance than Chicago. (This essay, I thought, could have benefited from more data).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What We See is a fascinating book., May 31, 2010
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This review is from: What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs (Hardcover)
What We See is a fascinating book about how the life and work of Jane Jacobs influenced the lives of so many people from different fields such as science, architecture and politics. There is a lot of information in this book. It should be read slowly to truly reflect and learn something from it. There is a study guide at the end of the book. The study guide questions should be at the end of every chapter. This would make the information easier to reflect on and remember.

My favorite contribution in this book is from Alexie Torres- Fleming. She is a youth minister who spearheaded efforts to make the Bronx a more better place to live. She worked with the youth of the Bronx to clean up the Bronx River, create new parks and return wildlife to the area. My other favorite contribution in this book is by James Stockard. He is a housing developer who writes about how Jane Jacobs taught him the importance of listening, learning and teaching in his work. Jane's influence is not only in North America. I love reading about how people live in places that I have never visited. Rob Cowan describes Liverpool as an excellent place to shop for Asian things. I hope I get a chance to shop there some day. I would love to see a Dharavi or slum in Mumbai just to see it looks like. I learned some new phrases and concepts like urban acupuncture and biomimicry. I had to read carefully to figure out how these ideas from urban planning and biology are in line with the work of Jane Jacobs. The authors of these contributions do a good job in explaining these ideas. My knowledge and curiosity of different places and things is greater just by reading this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Jane Saw, May 29, 2010
This review is from: What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs (Hardcover)
"You can observe a lot just by looking" opined New York philosopher Yogi Berra. Starting with its title, this collection of essays again and again comes back to the source of Jane Jacobs genius - really seeing by looking around her without preconceptions, then thinking deeply about what she saw. Starting with her classic Death & Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs transformed urban thinking by building theories around the concrete, not the abstract.

For anyone wanting to understand Jacobs, What We See provides the varying insights of 30 writers into how she changed the world we live in. This book is a great complement to the recent books about her, Wrestling With Moses and Urban Visionary. The fact that the latter positive biography was unauthorized is a testimony to how Jacobs wanted to keep the spotlight on the world around us and not on her personally.

What We See is notable for the breadth of its contributors. Besides the predictable collection of architects, planners and politicians (not that there's anything wrong with them), perhaps the most interesting contributions are from people supposedly "outside her field" - the biologist, the youth minister, the playwright. Of course not much was outside Jacobs' field, her lesson is not to search for the predictable but to see what is.

The essays testify to Jane Jacobs' importance not only in the field of city planning (which she reshaped into perhaps city cultivation), but on the ground in the two cities where she spent her adult life - New York and Toronto. And of course in hundreds of others such as Portland, Oregon where I live, which has built an entire civic discussion and fought battles around her insights involving thousands of people who have never heard of her, but want to have voices in their neighborhoods.

I would like to see more about her community activism (where she was perhaps the most important model besides Saul Alinsky) and her ideas on economics (Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Lucas thought she should have gotten the prize for her contributions). But perhaps that's another book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unwittingly disrespectful of Jane Jacobs, July 17, 2010
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Mathieu Hélie (Montreal, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs (Hardcover)
The first hint of this is seen in the epilogue, when editors Stephen Goldsmith and Lynne Elizabeth casually remark that Jane Jacobs "respected science" despite having "no academic pedigree". This snobbism is matter-of-factly repeated again and again throughout the collection, culminating in urban designer Ken Greenberg's befuddlement at Jacobs' refusal of honorary university degrees. Without so much as raising the question or acknowledging it may be up for debate, all authors consider the academic and the scientific to be synonymous. To them, Jane Jacobs is a curious anomaly in the natural order of academic supremacy. This is why they form one of the very pillars of civilization that Jane warned us was falling, and none of them considered their own position in the matter.

The reality is that Jane Jacobs, of all of them, was the true scientist. She was a scientist because she was always more interested in what was true than what was convenient. She was more interested in what she saw than what authority figures claimed was correct. That is what gave her the confidence to take on bureaucratic plans at every level. This is what motivated her to advise her otherwise authoritative visitor Mary Rowe to avoid the mindset of the bureaucrat, defined as seeking to solve the problems of other people.

It falls upon Sanford Ikeda to cover the explosion of knowledge in complexity science and emergence in the final years of Jane Jacobs' life, a topic which she almost clairvoyantly invented with the ultimate chapter of Death and Life of Great American Cities, where she distinguished between problems of single-variable organized simplicity and multi-variable organized complexity, then defined an entirely different method of study for the latter. Decades later, Stephen Wolfram suffers the derision of academics for proposing exactly the same thing, except with mountains of computer evidence in support of the claim. (It seems earning a Ph. D. by age 20 is not even enough to be scientific nowadays.) This would have been the ideal situation to elegize Jane Jacobs' foresight, but instead we have an essay that consists of so many references that it becomes impossible to tell if anything meaningful is being said. Is it that dangerous to simply explain an idea that has likely been thought of by countless numbers of people before whichever academic journal peer-reviewed it and published it? In fact, it seems that pop journalist Steven Johnson gets most of the credit for emergence.

When civilization itself is threatened, and we have been forewarned, how does one get on with the exercise of writing a book such as What We See? Perhaps the most important idea to retain from What We See is as a testament of the dark age that Jane Jacobs was last warning us about. We will not be out of it until we feel as free to express ourselves in writing as we do to express ourselves with our neighborhoods, our economies and our societies.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Introduces a new generation of urban thinkers, February 1, 2011
This review is from: What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs (Hardcover)
This book is timely. With the approach the 50th anniversary of Death & Life of Great American Cities this October, we need, more than ever, to advance our observations. Just as in 1961, we are struggling with an upheaval of how our urban areas function. The financial crisis spawned by the largely suburban mortgage meltdown has us rethinking how and where we live. The gulf oil spill highlighting the costs of even consuming domestic oil, has people talking about our addiction to the automobile.

I am amazed at how accurately she predicted much of our current situation in her last book Dark Ages Ahead. If anyone had any doubts before the global recession that Jacobs was right about the interdependence of everything, and the need for an integrated approach, they should be answered now.

At the dawn of the `century of the city', we would do well to take another look at Jacobs examination of the urban environment. What We See does just that. And in doing so, it introduces a new generation of urban thinkers, who--while influenced by Jane--are developing a new generation of urban visions and strategies to cope with our new generation of urban problems.

I strongly urge you to read (and reread) this book. But, while doing so, please remember that the purpose of the of the book isn't too simply to reflection on the observations Jane Jacobs. Rather it is to inspire each of us to advance our own observations of `what we see.'
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A key acquisition for any college-level urban planning or social issues collection, July 20, 2010
This review is from: What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs (Hardcover)
WHAT WE SEE: ADVANCING THE OBSERVATIONS OF JANE JACOBS considers the future of communities through the views and insights of over thirty respected activists, scholars, planners and public figures whose work has been inspired by Jane Jacobs. Jacobs was an urbanist and activist whose work THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES was published in 1961. Her survey of development policies of her times changed the entire discipline of urban planning and the nature of community involvement, making this assessment of her importance a key acquisition for any college-level urban planning or social issues collection.
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What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs
What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs by Arlene Goldbard (Hardcover - May 15, 2010)
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