Jane Jacob’s The Life and Death of American Cities Essay

Jane Jacob’s The Life and Death of American Cities Essay

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History is regarded as imperative in our understanding of the social attitudes and contex¬¬t on how design function within society and by evaluating these values, we are able to create room for possibilities and changes. In Jane Jacob’s publication of “The Death and Life American Cities,” in 1962, she undermines the conventions of urban planning that bought prominence to New Urbanism movement, playing a pivotal role in today’s planning of the cities at the advent of environmentalism. In parallel to this, with the increased awareness of environmentalism that arose in the 1960s, the bicycle presents itself as an object of opposition to car-centric society as a green alternative, which embodies the sustainable vision of the future in contemporary environmentalism.

While history presents us a foundation to our knowledge of the past that shapes the presents, it can also offer much needed alternatives to dogmatic views as evident in Jane Jacob’s “The Death and Life of American Cities.” Jacob engages with a framework that arises from a space outside the dominant system of modernist, orthodox city planning and rebuilding in the post-war U.S. She begins her book with, “an attack on current city planning and rebuilding... and an attempt to introduce new principles,” (Jacobs, 1961, p. 5) by providing examples on failures of planning in contributing to large-scale urban redevelopment projects, which led to wasteful use of space and a heavy reliance on cars. By examining the foundations and countering the logic of orthodox city planning from Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City, Le Corbusier’s Radiant and City Beautiful Movement led by Daniel Burnham (1961, p. 23), Jacob observes how these modernist ideas became embedded into the profession of plann...


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... Urban Studies, vol. 36, no. 8, p. 1361.

Talen, E 2000, ‘New Urbanism and The Culture of Criticism,’ Urban Geography, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 318–341.

Taylor, PJ 2006, ‘Jane Jacobs (1916-2006): An Appreciation,’ Environmental and Planning A, vol. 38, pp. 1981 – 1992.

Tomlinson, D 2003, ‘The Bicycle and Urban Sustainability,’ Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, vol. 7, no. 6.

Warwick Fox 1995, Toward a Transpersonal Ecology: Developing Foundations for Environmentalism, State University of New York Press, Albany, NY.

Wendt, M 2009, ‘The Importance of Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) by Jane Jacobs to the Profession of Urban Planning,’ New Visions for Public Affairs, vol. 1.

Zukin, S, ‘Why Neo-Cons loved Communitarian Urbanist Jane Jacobs,’ viewed 1 November, 2013, .

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