Jargon Watch: Jane-washing

wall with Jane Slogan
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter/ In Toronto, they paint the walls with Jacobsian grafitti

We all know what greenwashing is, defined in the Urban Dictionary as "meaning a whitewash except over something ecological. A greenwash is when an environmentally destructive corporation or institution gives itself a makeover to make itself look ecologically friendly, without really changing anything." Then there was Local-washing, " marketing campaigns attempting to portray their businesses as 'local' to cash in on the positive trend of buying and eating local." A less well-known term is Jane-washing, which I had not seen in a while but came up in a tweet:

The Guardian linked back to a source, Leo Hollis, who used it in 2014 to criticize the revitalization of Las Vegas:

The Jacobs name is now frequently used by developers, urbanists, governments -- and, more recently, technology startups -- as a short-hand to signal metropolitan pleasures, when the true purpose can be something more venal. It has become increasingly prevalent to “Jane-wash” a project with the promise of bike lanes, placemaking, and walkability

view from garden bridge© Heatherwick Studios

He used it again in 2015 in a takedown of London's Garden Bridge, a favorite TreeHugger punching bag.

These are not free spaces. They are not public spaces. They have nothing in common with Jacob’s observations of what makes a city work. In fact, these places accelerate inequality, and exacerbate difference. ‘Jane washing’ is a form of disguised exclusion because it makes those who are not welcome disappear. These are the victims that are broken in the velocity of disruption, and crushed by the violence of collisionability.


Now we in Toronto take our Jane Jacobs seriously; she lived here for 37 years, mostly in this house now occupied by architect Terry Montgomery. I remembered being shocked by Paul Goldberger's article in Metropolis, titled Jane-washing, just two months after she died, where he started off strongly:

But looking at Jacobs’s legacy, I am less concerned with the things she missed or failed to understand than about the things she saw and the way the ideas she cared passionately about seem to have been misunderstood or deliberately misused for purposes that would have appalled her. Jacobs’s view of cities became the common wisdom of our time. Once that happened, the risk lay not with people who argued with her but with those who claimed to agree with her and then proceeded to use—or abuse—her ideas for purposes deeply inconsistent with her values.

He then gets quite critical:

If the tendency of developers to exploit Jacobs’s ideas for their own purposes is one price of her success, there is another troubling part of her legacy: the frequency and ease with which her words are taken as pure and absolute gospel by well-meaning, earnest followers who don’t have half her imagination or boldness.


Why cities need more Jane Jacobs, less Marc Jacobs

Jane Jacobs is out of favor among those who want to get rid of old buildings and build towers on the theory that it will reduce housing prices, and as far as her not being able afford her old house in 2006, now the whole village is unrecognizable and completely unaffordable. But Jane-washing is more popular than ever.

But I can't wait for the opera!

A MARVELOUS ORDER from New Amsterdam on Vimeo.

Jargon Watch: Jane-washing
A very useful term that describes how her theories can be misused.

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