" Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urban writer and activist who championed new, community-based approaches to planning for over 40 years. Her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities , became one of the most influential American texts about the inner workings and failings of cities, inspiring generations of urban planners and activists. Her efforts to stop downtown expressways and protect local neighborhoods invigorated community-based urban activism and helped end Parks Commissioner Robert Moses’s reign of power in New York City.
“Jane Jacobs, the world-famous apostle of livable cities, almost single-handedly reshaped the way urban planners think about their profession. Planners hated her book when it came out, but it’s required reading in universities around the world.” - Alexander Ross, Canadian Business
“[Jacobs] believes in power being exercised by individuals or people in small groups rather than big governments and corporations. Jane Jacobs believes that most problems, if solvable at all, will be solved not by the elaborate schemes of experts but by spontaneous invention.” - Robert Fulford, Imperial Oil Review"
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The need for Jane Jacobs and her clear-eyed human-scale urbanism is as strong as ever. Her masterpiece The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) described in brilliant detail the intricate ecology of how a city works (New York) or does not work (Detroit). Though Jacobs never wrote fiction, the book was more like a novelistic rendering of lived street life than a scholarly text. She was, as she once described herself, a “student of cities”, more interested in the effects of buildings than their design.
Jacobs argued for diversity against, as she saw it, the homogeneity that came with modernism. It may seem odd that a thinker on the urban realm who also had an architect husband, Robert, had little interest in the actual design of buildings. But Jacobs argued it was how they functioned together that really mattered, and throughout Vital Little Plans she displays a refreshing lack of design fetishism. At the same time she had no wish to preserve neighbourhoods in perpetuity."
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