Jane Jacobs and the American City

Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs, then chairperson of a civic group in Greenwich Village, at a press conference in 1961.
Phil Stanziola - New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Library of Congress

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

Jane Jacobs and the Clay Dogs

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

Trial by Cooling by Jane Jacobs

JSTOR Citations

Urban Planning: Uncommon Sense: Remembering Jane Jacobs, the 20th century's most influential city critic

By: Paul Goldberger

The American Scholar, Vol. 75, No. 4 (AUTUMN 2006), pp. 122-126

The Phi Beta Kappa Society

Jane Jacobs and the Clay Dogs


Built Environment , Vol. 8, No. 4, Classics Revisited (1982), pp. 229-231

Alexandrine Press

Contradictions and Complexities: Jane Jacobs's and Robert Venturi's Complexity Theories

By: Peter L. Laurence

Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 59, No. 3 (Feb., 2006), pp. 49-60

Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Inc.

Jane Jacobs Before Death and Life

By: Peter L. Laurence

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 66, No. 1 (March 2007), pp. 5-15

University of California Press on behalf of the Society of Architectural Historians

Strategies for Helping Cities

By: Jane Jacobs

The American Economic Review, Vol. 59, No. 4, Part 1 (Sep., 1969), pp. 652-656

American Economic Association

Trial by Cooling

By: Jane Jacobs

Ekistics, Vol. 12, No. 74 (DECEMBER 1961), pp. 417-420

Athens Center of Ekistics

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