Jane Jacobs, 1916-2006

Guest post by Ariane Khachatourians

I know this isn’t exactly about gardening, but it is about a fellow avid gardener who passed away earlier this week. I don’t know how many people know of Jane Jacobs, myself having studied human geography and urban planning in university, she is one of my idols. If you haven’t heard of her, just google her name and start reading…maybe you will be swept away too.

Jacobs grew up in the States, but has lived in Toronto since 1969, when her family left the States to escape the chance of her sons being drafted to fight during the Vietnam War. She has been one of the most vocal and influential critics of urban planning throughout the years, fighting against the building of major expressways that have destroyed neighbourhoods and promoted the povery of inner-city neighbourhoods in cities like New York and Toronto. She has fought for planning centred around neighbourhoods and citizens, and against planning catering only to the automobile. She has championed the organic, complex, and disorganized nature of urban neighbourhoods, and criticized the suburbs for their isolation, poor economics, and automobile-centredness.

She has been one of the biggest proponents of mixed-use planning (complete communities where shops, residences, and recreational areas are all within close proximity to each other, often with shops along the street level and residences above them), which has been regaining popularity in North America over the past decade and a half or so.

Her books are timeless, and perhaps her most famous one, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, was first published in 1961, and is still an inspiring read to anyone who is interested in progressive urban planning.

If you want the readers digest version of her work, Wikipedia has a great overview. And for a more personal mini-biography of her life, the CBC has a great tribute up on their site.


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3 thoughts on “Jane Jacobs, 1916-2006

  1. Thanks for posting this. Davin told me last night. She is not out of place in the context of this site at all! I have been reading “The Nature of Economies” in bits and pieces and “Dark Age Ahead” is in queue on my shelf.

  2. I totally need to go check Dark Age Ahead out from the library, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about it lately.

    So sad, she was definately one of the coolest ladies in my books!

  3. Jane Jacobs was talked about in depth on CBC radio. Following her death.

    Indeed a woman of considerable note.

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