Jane’s Walk: exploring sidewalks to (re)discover the city

Jane’s Walk: exploring sidewalks to (re)discover the city

No one can find what will work for our cities by looking at the boulevards […] and they can't find it by looking at suburban garden cities, manipulating scale models, or inventing dream cities.

You've got to get out and walk. Walk, and you will see that many of the assumptions on which the projects depend are visibly wrong.[…] If you get out and walk, you see all sorts of other clues.

— Jane Jacobs, Downtown is for People

Jane Jacobs – author of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” (1961), was a famous urbanist and activist, who brought criticism to modern urbanism and proposed a community-based approach to city development. She looked at cities as ecosystems, with dynamic mechanisms in constant change and advocated for mixed-use development, as well as bottom-up planning, among others. 

In 2007, after her death, her friends were inspired to bring an homage in her honour. This was the beginning of what is now the global movement called “Jane’s Walk” - a series of free guided urban walks, meant to bring new angles to city exploration. As Jane herself stated, the simple act of walking can give you all sorts of other clues that you might otherwise miss. Observing details is an organic way of (re)discovering neighbourhoods and communities. You might get to see your own neighbourhood with new eyes or gain authentic insights about the lives of others, by noticing the surroundings.

In IHS, this concept was enthusiastically put into practice by the Urban Strategies and Planning students. Accompanied by Alexandra Tsatsou - IHS Research Assistant, IHS Intern Magdalena Derdzikowska and TU Delft guest lecturer Roberto Rocco, the students took part of a Jane’s walk in Rotterdam Noord and tried to answer a few key questions, through close observation.

They looked for places of interaction and exchange, kept an eye out for new ideas, trying to see how people change and adapt the urban environment and they tried to pay attention to the variety of buildings and understand how they contribute to the general atmosphere. Other aspects that students tried to follow were the safety or insecurity feelings/”the eyes on the street” and how spaces are designed for cars and/or pedestrians. Different elements caught their eye, among which the public space and facilities, safety elements, local businesses and walkability.

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More information

If you want to organize your own “Jane’s Walk”, find details here. If you want to share your ideas with us or ask any questions, contact us at ihs@ihs.nl.

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