March 30, 2011

Reconsidering Jane Jacobs

New Planners Press book explores and critiques the influence of Jane Jacobs.

CHICAGO — Jane Jacobs's writing questioning the validity of zoning, urban renewal, and highways more than 50 years ago has been credited with turning the planning profession on its head. She fueled a reevaluation of planning with her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Was the praise deserved then, and is it still deserved today?

Reconsidering Jane JacobsThe American Planning Association's forthcoming Planners Press book Reconsidering Jane Jacobs is a collection of essays that provides an honest critique of her influence over the last 50 years and her continued relevance today. The book will be available April 4.

"One of the greatest problems in understanding the influence of Jacobs on cities and planning is that she became a victim of her own success," said coeditor Max Page, professor of architecture and history at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. "Her complex ideas have been simplified to the point of slogans and urban legends, and she has too often been venerated uncritically."

Page writes in the book's introduction that "so many who profess to understand her ideas, don't, and many more who profess not to know of her work, have in fact been deeply influenced by it."

Reconsidering Jane Jacobs was edited by Page and Timothy Mennel, editor of Planners Press. Thirteen contributors from around the world — urbanists, planners, and scholars — give this important thinker the respect she deserves by giving her the critiques we need today. The contributors remind readers of the full range and complexity of Jacobs's ideas and offer thoughtful assessments on the consequences — intended and unintended — of her ideas for cities and planning today, including:

  • The gentrification of some cities and the demographic changes that have ensued.
  • The transformation — for both good and ill — of the planning profession.
  • The changing nature of "community" — can small-scale solutions work in a globalized economy?
  • The influence of Jacobs's literary style.
  • The use and misuse of Jacobs's work by new urbanists.
  • Identifying changes necessary in the planning profession today.

Essays also explore Jacobs's relevance from an international perspective, examining her influence in Abu Dhabi, Argentina, Australia, China, and the Netherlands.

The contributors are: Rudayna Abdo, AICP; Geoffrey M. Batzel, AICP; Thomas Campanella; Nathan Cherry, AICP; Jill L. Grant; Richard Harris; Gert-Jan Hospers; Jane M. Jacobs; Sergio Kiernan; Peter L. Laurence; Timothy Mennel; Max Page; and Jamin Creed Rowan. 

Reconsidering Jane Jacobs challenges readers to think carefully about all of Jacobs's legacies — and perhaps to rethink what makes her relevant today and why.

Reconsidering Jane Jacobs (ISBN: 978-1-932364-95-8) is available through in paperback for $29.95 ($19.95 for APA members). Media review copies are available by contacting Roberta Rewers at


Roberta Rewers, APA Public Affairs; 312-786-6395;