New York, New York. Throughout the 20th century the city became the symbol of ‘man vs. urban juggle’, where anything is possible. But the Great Depression (1929-1939), had a huge impact in the city and the amount of slums was staggering.
This represented both a health problem and an obstacle to the economy’s growth. In an eﬀort to create better housing conditions, a rehabilitation process was put in practice. The man chosen to run it was Robert Moses (1888-1981), a public oficial, whose main goal was to make the city cleaner by tearing everything down, and rebuilding it, giving the city homogenous, clean, features. What was the problem in tearing everything down? One of the problems was that this represented an opportunity that favoured established urban planners, real estate owners, and developers, who sometimes did not have in mind the best of intentions, apart from making money. This and several other problems were articulated by Jane Jacobs (1916-2006), author of one of the most wellknown books on activism, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), claiming public space as key to the city’s ability to renew itself. In the 1930s, Jacobs starts writing about architecture for Vogue magazine. In the early 1950s she starts working as a journalist for Architectural Forum.
This documentary, through Jacobs’ activism, addresses a problem-archetype that many cities still face today. Should the dynamics of the city be shaped by top-down, by institutions or down-up, by its citizens? The subject at stake, is one that has recently become relevant again, in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis: the struggle for the city. Or, to put it in Jacobs’ terms: an approach to ‘the kind of problem a city is’.