Jacobs, Jane (1916–2006)

Jane Jacobs, a pioneering urbanologist, social theorist, and activist, is best known for The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961. Her stated objective was to overthrow the rationalistic urban design theories and heavy-handed practices of the day, best illustrated by the “radiant-city” concept of the architect Le Corbusier and the municipal mega-development policies of the urban planner Robert Moses.

To Jacobs, a living city cannot conform to a single rational or aesthetic ideal because it poses a “problem of organized complexity” that emerges from the free interaction of millions of individuals. In this context, safety, trust, and economic development emerge in a spiral that depends on a spontaneous combination of population density and economic diversity. In other words, a diversity of primary ...

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