The legacy of Jane Jacobs

Based on Jane Jacobs’ Book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)”

If cities are the greenest form of human settlement that we could possibly aspire to, Jane Jacobs left us the owner’s manual for how to build them.

Fifty years ago this month, Random House published The Death and Life of Great American Cities, an extraordinary book in which Jacobs laid out the principles for creating a healthy city. The blocks must be at a human scale, she said. There must be a diversity of activities to keep eyes on the street. The focus of the economy — of everything — should be local.

The concepts of mixed-use, moderately, walkable urban environments are uniformly embraced by the planning professions, and by the movements of New Urbanism and smart growth

Her main ideas of her book are referenced below:

pg. 150 – Multiple Uses = “The district, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible, must serve more than one primary function; preferably more than two. These must insure the presence of people who go outdoors on different schedules and are in the place for different purposes, but who are able to use many facilities in common.”
Pg. 162 – “Any primary use whatever, by itself is relatively ineffectual as a creator of city diversity.”

Pg. 97 – Diversity = “In short, Rittenhouse Square is busy fairly continuously for the same basic reasons that a lively sidewalk is used continuously: because of functional physical diversity among adjacent uses, and hence diversity among users and their schedules.”

Pg. 150 – Short Blocks = “Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.”

Pg. 150 – Age of buildings = “The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones so that they vary in the economic yield they must produce. This mingling must be fairly close-grained.”

Pg. 348 – Side-walk and Road-size comparisons = “the main virtue of pedestrian streets is not that they completely lack cars, but rather that they are not overwhelmed and dominated by floods of cars, and that they are easy to cross.”

pg. 352 – “With greater accessibility to a district by cars, total cross-use of the district by people thus invariably declines, and this is a serious matter for cities, where one of the great jobs of transportation is to permit and encourage cross-use.”

Pg. 63 – “The sidewalk has been widened and attractively paved, wheeled traffic discouraged from the narrow street roadbed, trees and flowers planted, and a piece of play sculpture is to go in. All these are splendid ideas so far as they go.”

Pg. 395 – Parks, Sidewalks and Safety = “Small public parks should be included to be sure, and sports or play areas, but only in quantities and in places where busy new streets and their uses can enforce safety and insure attraction.”

Pg. 35 – “the sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity.”


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