Reconsidering Jane Jacobs

By Max Page, Timothy Mennel

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Fifty years after the publication of her most influential book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs is perhaps the most widely read urbanist ever. Her ideas contributed to the wholesale reevaluation of the tenets of contemporary planning: urban renewal, public housing, highways, and zoning. It is hard to imagine the renewed appreciation of neighborhood life, the rejection of urban renewal and public housing complexes, and the rise of the new urbanist movement without Jane Jacobs. It may be hard to imagine gated communities, gentrification, and the Disneyfication of urban centers without her as well.

This volume begins with the premise that the deepest respect is shown through honest critique. One of the greatest problems in understanding the influence of Jane Jacobs on cities and planning is that she has for much of the past five decades been "Saint Jane," the "housewife" who upended urban renewal and gave us back our cities. Over time, she has become a saintly stick figure, a font of simple wisdom for urban health that allows many to recite her ideas and few to understand their complexity. She has been the victim of her own success.

Reconsidering Jane Jacobs gives this important thinker the respect she deserves, reminding planning professionals of the full range and complexity of her ideas and offering thoughtful critiques on the unintended consequences of her ideas on cities and planning today. It also looks at the international relevance — or lack thereof — of her work, with essays on urbanism in Abu Dhabi, Argentina, China, the Netherlands, and elsewhere.

Contributors include a range of urbanists, planners, and scholars, including Thomas Campanella, Jill L. Grant, Richard Harris, Nathan Cherry, Peter Laurence, Jane M. Jacobs, and others.

About the Editors

Max PageMax Page is professor of architecture and history at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. A 2003 Guggenheim Fellow, he teaches and writes about the design, development, and politics of cities and architecture. His most recent book is The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction (2008), and he is the author of The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900–1940 (1999), which won the Spiro Kostof Award of the Society of Architectural Historians, for the best book on architecture and urbanism. He coedited Building the Nation: Americans Write Their Architecture, Their Cities, and Their Environment (2003), and Giving Preserving a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States (2003). Page has written for Architecture magazine, the New York Times, Metropolis, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. He is currently researching a book on the future of historic preservation, supported by a Fulbright Fellowship and a Howard Foundation Fellowship.

Timothy MennelTimothy Mennel is senior editor and acquisitions manager of Planners Press and PAS Reports at the American Planning Association in Chicago. He coedited Green Community (2009) and Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York (2007); his 2007 dissertation in geography was a three-volume annotated novel about Robert Moses. He has published in the Journal of Planning History and the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians and has been an editor at the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Random House, Artforum, and elsewhere.

About the Contributors

Rudayna Abdo, AICP, is director of planning at Otak International's Abu Dhabi office. She is the former director of the American Institute of Certified Planners at the American Planning Association and a former associate at Perkins+Will.

Geoffrey M. Batzel, AICP, is director of urban planning for KEO International Consultants. He holds a master's in business administration from the Kellogg School of Management and a master's in urban planning from McGill University.

Thomas J. Campanella is associate professor of urban planning and design at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and currently a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. He is a recipient of Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships and has held teaching and visiting appointments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Nanjing University, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Campanella's books include The Concrete Dragon: China's Urban Revolution and What It Means for the World (2008); Republic of Shade: New England and the American Elm (2003), winner of the Spiro Kostof Award; and Cities from the Sky: An Aerial Portrait of America (2001). He is also, with Lawrence Vale, of The Resilient City: How Modern Cities Recover from Disaster (2005).

Nathan Cherry, AICP, is vice president in charge of planning and urban design for the Los Angeles office of RTKL and author of Grid / Street / Place: Essential Elements of Sustainable Urban Districts (APA Planners Press, 2009).

Jill L. Grant is professor of planning at Dalhousie University. Her books include Planning the Good Community: New Urbanism in Theory and Practice (2006) and The Drama of Democracy: Contention and Dispute in Community Planning (1994).

Richard Harris is professor of geography and earth sciences at McMaster University. His books include Creeping Conformity How Canada Became Suburban,1900–1960 (2004) and Unplanned Suburbs: Toronto's American Tragedy,1900–1950 (1996).

Gert-Jan Hospers teaches economic geography at the University of Twente and has a special chair in city and regional marketing at the Radboud University Nijmegen, both in Netherlands. In 2004 he visited Jane Jacobs in Toronto. His writings on Jacobs have appeared in Dutch publications, as well as the Canadian Journal of Regional Science, European Planning Studies, and Planning Theory and Practice.

Jane M. Jacobs is professor of cultural geography at the University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences. Her publications include (with R. Fincher) Cities of Difference (1998) and Edge of Empire: Postcolonialism and the City (1996).

Sergio Kiernan is the architecture editor of Página 12, the foremost investigative paper in Argentina, and the author of Classical and Vernacular: The Architecture of Alejandro Moreno and SYASA 20 Years, about the restoration of the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.

Peter L. Laurence is graduate director and assistant professor of architecture at the Clemson University School of Architecture. Parts of his dissertation, "Jane Jacobs, American Architectural Criticism and Urban Design Theory, 1935–1965," have been published in the Journal of Architectural Education, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Journal of Urban Design.

Jamin Creed Rowan is assistant professor of English at Brigham Young University. He specializes in U.S. literature since 1865, with a particular focus on urban literature and culture. His work has been supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Archive Center and has appeared in American Literature and Studies in American Fiction. His book Urban Sympathy: The Death and Life of an American Intellectual Tradition is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
March 1, 2011
APA Planners Press

Table of Contents

Introduction: More Than Meets the Eye
Max Page

The Unknown Jane Jacobs: Geographer, Propagandist, City Planning Idealist
Peter L. Laurence

An Australian Jane Jacobs
Jane M. Jacobs

The Literary Craft of Jane Jacobs
Jamin Creed Rowan

Urban Warfare: The Battles for Buenos Aires
Sergio Kiernan

The Magpie and the Bee: Jane Jacobs's Magnificent Obsession
Richard Harris

Jane Jacobs in Dutch Cities and Towns: Metropolitan Romance in Provincial Reality
Gert-Jan Hospers

Time, Scale, and Control: How New Urbanism (Mis)Uses Jane Jacobs
Jill L. Grant

Planning the Modern Arab City: The Case of Abu Dhabi
Rudayna Abdo, AICP, and Geoffrey M. Batzel, AICP

Jane Jacobs, Andy Warhol, and the Kind of Problem a Community Is
Timothy Mennel

A Chinese Perspective
Nathan Cherry, AICP

Jane Jacobs and the Death and Life of American Planning
Thomas J. Campanella





"Finally — a great book on Jane Jacobs, the universally respected fountainhead of wisdom about cities. It provides an indispensable reassessment of her writings and her ideas that is freshly relevant to today's planners, students, and citizens as they grapple with issues she never envisioned."

—Alexander Garvin, principal, AGA Public Realm Strategists

"Reconsidering Jane Jacobs not only extends Jane Jacobs's ideas from Greenwich Village to the global village but also probes the myths and contradictions in her formation and critical reception. The dozen essays in this collection combine significant new research with insightful reflections on an original range of topics. Six decades after The Death and Life of Great American Cities and five years after her own death, Jacobs continues to live on in the intellectual life of an ever more urbanized world grappling with the question of what makes cities great."

—Joan Ockman, University of Pennsylvania; former director, Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia University

"With this eye-opening book, Jane Jacobs finally begins to receive the thorough reconsideration for which she has long been overdue. For two generations, Jacobs and her ideas have been flattened into formula, turning her into a simplified figure casually invoked by all sorts, from neighborhood activists to new urbanist planners. It's high time that her work and its world-spanning influence on city life got the kind of searching, rigorous, revitalizing attention lavished on Jacobs by the contributors to this excellent collection."

—Carlo Rotella, Director of the American Studies Program and Director of the Lowell Humanities Series, Boston College; author of October Cities: The Redevelopment of Urban Literature

"'Please look closely at real cities,' Jane Jacobs wrote 50 years ago on the first page of "The Death and Life of Great American Cities"-and what has been the consequence? The 12 compelling essays in Reconsidering Jane Jacobs faithfully record both the tremendous and continuing impacts that Jane Jacobs's own observations have had on the world, and the dissatisfactions and difficulties many still have with her way of observing and learning about cities-'listen, linger and think about what you see' were her instructions. This is a fascinating, complex, and honest book."

—Tony Hiss, author of In Motion and The Experience of Place; visiting scholar at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

"Nothing demonstrates the need for this book more vividly than Max Page's opening story of viewing Jane Jacobs's 'utterly ordinary' West Village home, a narrow three-storey building on Hudson Street where she lived in the 1950s and '60s, on sale in 2009 for $3.5 million. The hyper-gentrification of Lower Manhattan is just one symptom of the complicated legacy left by Jacobs, revered goddess of urban theory. The essays in this expansive collection interrogate and excavate the real details of Jacobs's thought. It will clarify and deepen Jacobs's ideas for novices and aficionados alike."

—Mark Kingwell, Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto, author of Concrete Reveries: Consciousness and the City

"Reconsidering Jane Jacobs goes far beyond reconsidering. It probes all kinds of fascinating new issues, such as how Jacobs's work has been used abroad in places as diverse as China, Argentina, and Australia, and how it has empowered new urbanists while undermining professional planners. Published on the 50th anniversary of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, this book pays important tribute to Jacobs by demonstrating how much her legacy continues to challenge and stimulate."

—Lizabeth Cohen, Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Harvard University; author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America