I will be giving my second annual Jane’s Walk waterfront tour of downtown Providence on Saturday, May 2, at 1:00 p.m. We will meet at the Crawford Street Bridge – the new and beautiful bridge, not the late, unlamented Guinness world’s-widest-bridge one. Last year’s walk was fun. There were maybe 30 of us, including Barnaby Evans and, for a while at least, Nate Storring, who runs the Jane’s Walk shindig here in Providence. This will be the third year, I think, for the tours here in the capital of the Ocean State.
The worldwide free-tour phenomenon, born in 2007, is named for Jane Jacobs, who stood before the bulldozers of New York “urban removal” czar Robert Moses, the power broker of Robert Caro’s famous biography, and then wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), about how modernist planning has sapped energy from so many robust urban places. Providence is a great place worth touring because it has avoided so much of that, so much of what Jacobs opposed and what Moses, at his worst, represented – not just ugly but aggressively so, and ugly in the “Ugly American” sense of wanting to push obviously bad theory on places that generally worked just fine and had for decades, even centuries.
Even though we will not head south along the Providence River, we will probably discuss the proposed PawSox stadium. (I am still on the fence.) And those who want may continue past the end point of this tour on Nate’s map, which is Waterplace Park. Last year we extended the tour into downtown proper, where recently several new rehabs of office buildings into apartment complexes have been proposed. Very exciting!
My back and forth last year with Barnaby, for whom modern architecture is not the bête noir it is for me, pulled everyone into a general conversation about architecture and urban design. Whenever I give a “lecture” I always insist that the host treat it as a Q & A from the get-go. I cannot talk long on my own if I am not prodded by listeners with questions, even those which try to slap down my calcified outlook on architecture. What a boring tour it would be – especially for me – if everyone tagging along agreed with me!
This sort of unconventional, anti-establishment activist’s tour might help slow down all the spinning that Jane Jacobs must be doing in her grave as she watches what’s happening to so many of our cities.
Please join us!