2017.05.22 Post Gazette
Here is a link to our just-updated Fisher ARCHitecture Aspinwall Marina text and images, here is a link to Diana Nelson Jones’ thoughtful May 22, 2017 Post Gazette article on the the design, and here is a link to my recent PHLF Subtractive Architecture lecture that she mentions.
This weekend Bea Spolidoro and I drove to Columbus, where we saw the important new movie, “Citizen Jane“, which tells the story of the urban planner and activist, Jane Jacobs. As we think about the not-so-distant past when entire neighborhoods were sheared from our urban fabric in the name of progress, and consider the continuing negative effects in Pittsburgh of this unfortunate “subtraction” – that word again! – in the Lower Hill and Allegheny Center, her sane, humane voice warned of the dangers of top-down utopian urban schemes before anyone else. Imagine being shouted down for advocating that citizens should control the destiny of their own neighborhoods. Times have changed for sure, in part thanks to her efforts.
It turns out Diana Nelson Jones is also a fan of Jane Jacobs, who has been one of her heroes since she read “Death and Life of American Cities” in college. She wrote me today that “she can hardly believe that at any time in any place, the plans of developers and officials would disregard places that people physically and emotionally own.”
“Alas,” she concludes, “those attitudes remain…”
The Aspinwall Riverfront Park was conceived of in a manner that Jane Jacobs would have approved. It was a truly bottom-up effort, one that, thanks to the tireless efforts of community leader, Susan Crookston, reclaimed a site that belonged to a small group of people and gave it back to the entire community. Aspinwall, previously a river-adjacent community with no physical connection to the River, now has that connection restored. And the buildings of the marina, previously used for storage and boar repair, are now containers for yoga classes, kayak rentals, food trucks, face-painting, and weddings.
Jane Jacobs was an advocate for letting the people of a community control its future. The people of Aspinwall have a difficult decision ahead of them in the coming months as they choose the future of the adjacent Riverfront 47 site. It is confusing to grasp that although that although developers should sometimes be resisted, other times the things they create can have genuine value.