My upcoming Jane’s Walk

Waterplace Park toward the beginning of a WaterFire event in the year 2000. (RichardBenjamin.com)

Waterplace Park toward the beginning of a WaterFire event in the year 2000. (RichardBenjamin.com)

My first Jane’s Walk, one of seven in Providence May 2-4, takes place this coming Saturday. It is free and open to the public. Jane’s Walk is an annual global city touring festival in which citizens volunteer to guide tours of a district or neighborhood of their city, infusing their tour with the passion of their vision for the place. My Jane’s Walk is called Waterplace: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and starts at 2:30 p.m. at the Crawford Street Bridge near Hemenway’s. The link takes you to a map and a description of the tour, which will probably last a little more than an hour.

Jane Jacobs at the White Horse Tavern - in New York, not Newport. (elblogdefarina.blogspot.com)).

Jane Jacobs at the White Horse Tavern – in New York, not Newport. (elblogdefarina.blogspot.com)

The walking festival, now in its seventh year, is named in honor of the late Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), which almost single-handedly turned city planning away from the urban renewal model (often accurately derided as “urban removal”) of bigger is better and, to judge by the result, uglier is better, toward a reconsideration of cities as places for people to enjoy life. The book essentially recommends returning to the civic formulas prevalent before the onset of modernist planning and design in the years after World War II. That view also animates my thoughts and writing on cities, architecture and Providence, so you can imagine that Jane Jacobs is as much a guru for me as for any other Jane’s Walks tour guide.

My Jane’s Walk is labeled “Waterplace” because that’s a place name that many people know – but my walk will start at the bridge near Hemenway’s and take you up and down the rivers and through part of downtown and back to where we started. I will answer your questions about buildings along our way, the history of why they are beautiful or ugly, what impact beauty and ugliness have on Providence, and what we as citizens can do about it.

The photograph, by Richard Benjamin, encapsulates my rant about the Capital Center Project. The photo captures Waterplace Park at the height of its beauty. It was only shot 14 years ago, but in those 14 years poor civic stewardship has had sorry results. You will learn that story on this tour. It is on Saturday, May 3, at 2:30, starting at the Crawford Street Bridge near Hemenway’s.

I hope you will join us, and please be loaded for bear when thinking up questions to throw at me on our tour.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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