Hermann Goering is famous for two things:
1. Being an air force general, and
2. Being a really bad air force general.
What does this have to do, you may ask, with Jane Jacobs, who is famous for a book she wrote in the early 1960s advocating small, mixed-use street-level city development, in contrast to the mega-projects that were advocated by many influential planners at the time.
The connection is, as a London-based friend pointed out to me the other day, that the German bombing of London in WW2 knocked out random sections all over the city, which were then often replaced by various public developments. The knocked-out portions were often small, so there was not always room for megablocks to replace them, and they were scattered—so the new housing was also distributed haphazardly all over the city.
Thus, Goering helped in two ways, corresponding to the two numbered points listed above:
1. His air force dropped bombs and destroyed buildings all over London.
2. His attack was a failure, and most of London was left standing.
One of Jane Jacobs’s lesser-known principles was a recommendation that any neighborhood have a mix of housing stock, some old cheap stuff and some new expensive stuff, so that different sorts of people would be living there: families with young kids, single professionals, oldsters, etc. Patchwork demolition did the job.
I’m no expert on London so perhaps commenters can correct me on the details, but it’s my impression that this particular point has been overlooked. For example, this review by Richard Evans of a book called “A Blessing in Disguise: War and Town Planning in Europe, 1940-45″ discusses the effects of destruction and rebuilding, but I didn’t see any mention of the idea that patchwork destruction could allow a partial rebuilding that would automatically result in a mix of housing stock.
P.S. My new buzzword: “fractal devastation”