Wednesday, January 17, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever, excerpt eighteen)

from The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever by Prudence Peiffer:

In 1961, another important breakthrough came in the awareness of older buildings. The urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs published The Death and Life of Great American Cities. She was an “unaccredited journalist-mother, with no college education,” and her book was initially dismissed by many of the most celebrated critics and urban scholars of the day, though it is now seen as a central treatise on how cities work. Perhaps because of her outsider status, Jacobs looked at the smaller details of a city that had not received much attention: the sidewalks, the stoops, the hodgepodge variety of life and trade. Among her arguments for preserving the vitality of the city block was the necessity to save old buildings, which allows for a diversity of industry and aesthetic styles through the “ingenious adaptations of old quarters to new uses.” As if describing the Slip artists’ own repurposing of book depots, sail-making lofts, and ship chandleries into home studios, she goes on, “These eternal changes and permutations among old city buildings can be called makeshifts only in the most pedantic sense. It is rather that a form of raw material has been found in the right place. It has been put to a use that might otherwise be unborn.” Jacobs acknowledged not only the inspired repurposing of the past by artists and others who adopted these difficult or derelict spaces but also the need for a city to have this creative class, who safeguarded stretches of history through their forced ingenuity and also enriched the diversity of a city’s block.

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