the death and life of great american cities (1972 ed.)

In my library of course The Death and Life of Great American Cities / Jane Jacobs

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

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  • TAG : Rereading: The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
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  • This section of the Jane Jacobs book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was about the opposition’s misconceptions about diversity in the city and how they are wrong. For Jacobs, diversity is concerning a diversity of uses of a space, not necessarily culturally or racially. She advocates that many types of business and residences are the hallmarks of a thriving city neighborhood. There are three main myths she identifies in this chapter. The myths are the opposition often cited by city planners against diversity.

    Thirty years after its publication, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities was described by "The New York Times as "perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning....[It] can also be seen in a much larger context. It is first of all a work of literature; the descriptions of street life as a kind of ballet and the bitingly satiric account of traditional planning theory can still be read for pleasure even by those who long ago absorbed and appropriated the book's arguments." Jane Jacobs, an editor and writer on architecture in New York City in the early sixties, argued that urban diversity and vitality were being destroyed by powerful architects and city planners. Rigorous, sane, and delightfully epigrammatic, Jacobs's small masterpiece is a blueprint for the humanistic management of cities. It is sensible, knowledgeable, readable, indispensable. The author has written a new foreword for this Modern Library edition.

  • In 1968 Jacobs moved with her family to Toronto, in opposition to the Vietnam War. In Toronto, she remained an outspoken critic of top-down city planning. In the early 1970s she helped lead the Stop Spadina Campaign, to prevent the construction of a major highway through some of Toronto’s liveliest neighborhoods. She also advocated for greater autonomy of the City of Toronto, criticized the bloated electric company Ontario Hydro, supported broad revisions in Toronto’s Official Plan and other planning policies, and opposed expansion of the Toronto Island Airport. After publishing The Death and Life of Great American Cities, her interests and writings broadened, encompassing more discussion of economics, morals, and social relations. Her subsequent books include The Economy of Cities (1969); The Question of Separatism (1980); Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1984); Systems of Survival (1993); and most recently The Nature of Economies (2000). She became a Canadian citizen in 1974 and lived in Toronto until her death on April 25th, 2006.

    The Death and Life of Great American Cities was described by the New York Times as "perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning.... [It] can also be seen in a much larger context. It is first of all a work of literature; the descriptions of street life as a kind of ballet and the bitingly satiric account of traditional planning theory can still be read for pleasure even by those who long ago absorbed and appropriated the book's arguments." Jane Jacobs, an editor and writer on architecture in New York City in the early 1960s, argued that urban diversity and vitality were being destroyed by powerful architects and city planners. Rigorous, sane and delightfully epigrammatic, Jane Jacobs' tour de force is a blueprint for the humanistic management of cities. It remains sensible, knowledgeable, readable and indispensable. (From the publisher)

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  • The death and life of great American cities
    Jane Jacobs
    Snippet view - 1961

    While working for the Office of War Information she met her husband, architect Robert Jacobs. In 1952 Jacobs became associate editor of Architectural Forum, allowing her to more closely observe the mechanisms of city planning and urban renewal. In the process, she became increasingly critical of conventional planning theory and practice, observing that many of the city rebuilding projects she wrote about were not safe, interesting, alive, or economically sound. She gave a speech on this issue at Harvard in 1956, and William H. Whyte invited her to write a corresponding article in Fortune magazine, titled “Downtown is for People.” In 1961 she presented these observations and her own prescriptions in the landmark book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, challenging the dominant establishment of modernist professional planning and asserting the wisdom of empirical observation and community intuition.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities-jane Jacobs

Since Jacobs published it in 1961, the logic and sentiments behind her work have taken root in many city development departments and produced improvements that I hope would encourage her today. They certainly encourage me. But there’s still a long way to go. When I drive through downtown Austin, I’m thrilled by all the diversity I see in action. But a few miles out, the suburban neighborhoods are populated with bleak business parks and wide highways that speak of an environment built for machines instead of bodies. As ever more Americans (especially millennials) flock to urban centers, it is ever more important that we build them well. At the beginning of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, there’s a note about illustrations that has stuck with me: “The scenes that illustrate this book are all about us. For illustrations, please look closely at real cities. While you are looking, you might as well also listen, linger and think about what you see.”