Jane Jacobs, the great urban thinker and activist, has died. She was 89 years old.
She was a true champion of the people, always fighting for the survival of neighborhoods over the mass-development and sprawl that dominated most of the 20th century. We need her ideas and words now more than ever with what is happening in New Orleans and in other places.
I urge anyone who isn't familiar with her work to immediately go out and purchase The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It will completely change the way you think about cities and communities.
From her NYT Obituary:
In her book "Death and Life of Great American Cities," written in 1961, Ms. Jacobs's enormous achievement was to transcend her own withering critique of 20th-century urban planning and propose radically new principles for rebuilding cities. At a time when both common and inspired wisdom called for bulldozing slums and opening up city space, Ms. Jacobs's prescription was ever more diversity, density and dynamism — in effect, to crowd people and activities together in a jumping, joyous urban jumble.
Ms. Jacobs's thesis was supported and enlarged by her deep, eclectic reading. But most compelling was her description of the everyday life she witnessed from her home above a candy store at 555 Hudson Street.
She puts out her garbage, children go to school, the drycleaner and barber open their shops, housewives come out to chat, longshoremen visit the local bar, teenagers return from school and change to go out on dates, and another day is played out. Sometimes odd things happen: a bagpiper shows up on a February night, and delighted listeners gather around. Whether neighbors or strangers, people are safer because they are almost never alone.