urbanter

Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

The House of Jane (+ new updates!)

555 Hudson Street: the Mecca of Urban Studies (at least in my opinion).  To the urban planning nerd in me, this was it, a hallowed and storied place I had envisioned in my mind’s eye time and again.  What could this place be, you might ask.  None other than the house of Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities and a pioneer of people-oriented urbanism.  Jacobs fought tooth and nail against Robert Moses’ plans for a highway cutting through her beloved Greenwich Village, and to this day the quaint alleyways of the Village speak to her victory.  She was fearless and articulate, a true champion of cities at a time when an urban voice of reason was most needed.  Her spellbinding tome was an original inspiration for my interest in Urban Studies.

Jane Jacobs lived on the upper floor of this quaint red building on Hudson Street!

Jane Jacobs lived on the upper floor of this quaint red building on Hudson Street!

And maybe it was a little fan girl of me, but I staked out her old home in the West Village and counted down the building numbers to 555 one recent, sweltering day.  I almost passed Jane Jacobs’ house right by, what with the renovations underway and the yuppie boutique below (I wondered what Jacobs would have to say about that), but alas I spent a full few minutes gazing up in awe.  In her writing, Jacobs describes her New York neighborhood in great detail, taking pleasure in the small shops and familiar faces dotting the streets.  Hudson Street itself, with the exception of a few upscale stores, probably looks pretty much the same as when Jacobs lived here–and trod these exact steps!–and I could picture her sauntering around, oversized glasses perched on her nose and notebook in hand.  It was a wonderful day. 

Light streamed down on Jacobs' house as the urban studies nerd in me rejoiced at my discovery.

Light streamed down on Jacobs’ house as the urban studies nerd in me rejoiced at my discovery.

And now, back to my job!  First, here are some snapshots of my daily office duties:

I wake up around 7 so I have enough time to read before work; I love mornings!  My “commute” to work is a lovely 10 minute walk in which I pass some of the same people setting up their shops and starting their days each morning.  

My walk to work starts here on my street (the flag was up for the Fourth of July).

My walk to work starts here on my street (the flag was up for the Fourth of July).

Project for Public Spaces is located on Lafayette Street right next to the Public Theater, under Astor Place, and kitty-corner to Cooper Union.  It makes for such a scenic block!

Looking North on Lafayette Street; PPS is located on the right-hand side before the Public Theater.

Looking North on Lafayette Street; PPS is located on the right-hand side before the Public Theater.

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The view from PPS, on the 7th floor.

I spend a lot of time doing research at my desk, but most days also include meetings with my wonderful and patient supervisor Casey or other co-workers.  In the afternoons, I usually take a walk into the surrounding neighborhoods–my favorite places to explore are SoHo, Greenwich Village, and the NYU campus, all of which are within a 5 minute walk.  Then there are always the surprises, such as when the other PPS interns and I got to help with a Placemaking exercise in Union Square for a grad class at Pratt a few weeks ago. 

My desk at PPS, where I spend most of my time researching, reading, writing, and compiling presentations.

My desk at PPS, where I spend most of my time researching, reading, writing, and compiling presentations.

The office is filled with light and curious objects/photos/memorabilia the staff has collected over the years. 

Check out that book collection!

Check out that book collection!

The front of the office facing the street.

The front of the office facing the street.

As for my projects, after some shuffling around I am now working full-time on a Placemaking project PPS is doing with none of than–Stanford!  PPS has been hired to activate Herrin Lawn, which is the relatively empty green space right next to the Herrin Biology Laboratories, and White Plaza.  I have been breaking down the space into different zones or “bubbles,” each of which corresponds to design recommendations, as well as doing research on benchmarks for similar spaces as inspiration for each bubble.  It’s so interesting for me to be engaged in the transformation of a space which means so much to me–the Stanford campus–while working at PPS.  It’s funny to watch my different worlds align.  I will share more about my projects next week as they progress!  

Tomorrow, I head to Crystal City, VA, which is right outside Washington, D.C., where PPS will be conducting a series of pop-up Placemaking workshops.  I can’t wait to share my photos and on-the-ground experiences from Crystal City next week!

Cheers, 

Amy

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