Jane Jacobs, who would have been 100 today and is the focus of the Google Doodle, was a big part of why cities like New York City and Toronto look and feel the way they do today.
Jacobs believed cities should be fun. Her activist work and her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities were reactions to the prevailing urban planning movements of the time which promoted clearing city blocks to build highways and high-rises. An untrained, self-taught citizen, Jacobs fought highway development, including a Robert Moses plan that would have demolished New York City’s Washington Square Park. Jacobs was always asking the question, Are our cities built for cars, or for people? She envisioned pedestrian-friendly cities that encourage vibrant neighborhoods where people can live, work, and play; she described life on the city streets as “a kind of social ballet.”
Her work inspired the New Urbanism movement which has defined so much of contemporary city planning. Read more about Jane Jacobs and her lasting influence here (and then go for a walk!):
Urban Planning: Uncommon Sense: Remembering Jane Jacobs, the 20th century’s most influential city critic
Contradictions and Complexities: Jane Jacobs’s and Robert Venturi’s Complexity Theories
Jane Jacobs Before Death and Life
Strategies for Helping Cities by Jane Jacobs