The Inspiration


Jane Jacobs, (1916-2006) was an urban writer and activist who championed new, community-based approaches to planning for over 40 years. Her 1961 thesis, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, became arguably the most influential American text about the inner workings and failings of cities, inspiring generations of urban planners and activists. Her vision of urban possibility is embodied in the following quote:

“Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.”

Taking from Jacobs’s vision, the aim of this project is to enliven the alley so that it too can house the seeds of its own regeneration. I’ve learned from her writings that urban is good, it puts people on top each other. It is up to us to establish balance and a steady way of living.


Mark Lakeman is the co-founder of the non-profit placemaking organization The City Repair Project in Portland, OR and principal of the community architecture and planning firm Communitecture. He advised me from the role of Capstone Advisor.  His feedback and suggestions encouraged me and inspired my placemaking ideas for the alley.

 In thinking about why we bring people together, it does seem obvious that everything has a chance to be better, people less lonely, a feeling of being more powerful, all kinds of good sensations. In terms of a big picture, personally my logic is that everything that is currently broken or out of balance becomes possible to fix or improve upon when we bring people together. Not just local transformation, but broader cultural transformations can occur too when we build connection upon the local.
 I think that climate change can be addressed locally, and local solutions can spread and inspire more local solutions to emerge, and this can inspire leaders to actually lead, because they can see that a moment for new ideas to gain support has arrived broadly.
 Climate change is only one issue, but this logic applies to all others, I feel. Also, “big” issues like climate change are built upon numerous smaller ones, and so solving that one will depend upon many being addressed at once, ala permaculture where we stack them up to relate each to the other, and then solve them systemically. We seem, in spite of our isolation from each other, to have the freedom and knowledge to act locally and inspire systemic change. Maybe the big obstacle is our fear of each other, our sense of being alone, even when we’re not. When people drop that fear, I think that their hearts open and they begin to try new ideas. That’s my big picture, to keep bringing people together, sow seeds of potential even though I don’t know what will happen, just to enable things to happen.”


Mark is also an urban place-maker and permaculture designer, community design facilitator, and an inspiring catalyst in his very active commitment to the emergence of sustainable cultural landscapes everywhere.  Every design project he is involved with furthers the development of a beneficial vision for human and ecological communities.



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