on October 11, 2009
This is a decently written non-fictional work about the well publicized battles between the quintessential modernist Robert Moses and his arch-nemesis and modernism's grandest critic in Jane Jacobs. Although Anthony Flint offers no new analytical insight into modernism, Flint does a good job in weaving in between stories to deliver a well-written biography.
Written to the level of the average reader, I am sure this book will be of interest to anyone studying postwar urban development.
This short book details the protests inspired and led by Jane Jacobs against various projects spearheaded by Robert Moses in New York's Greenwich Village in the 1950's and 60's.
It is extremely well researched and much more substantial than the biography of Jane Jacobs by Alice Alexiou. Actually, it deals not only with Jane Jacobs' life but also with Robert Moses'. Anecdotally, it even includes poems written by Jacobs and Moses in their student days! The photographs add significantly to the contents and are very revealing of the times.
The essence of the book is narrative but the analytical epilogue is of the greatest interest with respect to the true impact of both protagonists on our cities and our ways of thinking. It could actually be read quite separately from the rest of the work.
Sadly, the layout in the hardcover version is blandly traditional with the strictly black and white photographs grouped together in unnumbered pages towards the middle of the book.
Worse, the writing style is hampered by an organization that is thematic and not strictly chronological. This leads of course to some repetition from one chapter to another. The lack of chronology sometimes also confusingly occurs within a single paragraph. The High Line Park of 2009 is for instance introduced in the discussion of freight transportation in the 60's.
Overall, however, this book is warmly recommended to those curious and concerned with the development of cities and its history.