wall of houses welcomes you into suburbia, communities
James Howard Kunstler considered to be “the greatest
misallocation of resources in the history of the world.”
Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/Michelle Junior
Ode to Jane Jacobs
By Jackie Wallace
Despite never having been an urban planner, Jane Jacobs left an undeniable mark on
the way that planners, and the public, view urban spaces. Writer, activist and urban
critic, Jane Jacobs passed away on April 25, 2006, at the age of 89.
When Jacob’s first book, The
Death and Life of Great American Cities, was published in 1961 her name became
immediately established among urban planners. She advocated a new vision for cities,
based primarily on observations she made of her own urban surroundings: the people,
spaces, smells and interactions of the community. She was a staunch enemy of urban
monotony. She believed in creating "mixed-use" cityscapes, bringing together
business and residence, old and new, to create vibrant, diverse and sustainable communities.
She led the charge of community-based protests against expanding expressways in Greenwich
Village in New York City and in Toronto.
Jacobs was born on May 4, 1916 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In 1944, she married architect
Robert Hyde Jacobs with whom she had three children. While living as a young family in
New York City, Jane worked as a journalist, freelancing for the New York Herald Tribune
and Vogue, and eventually became part of the staff at Architectural Forum.
Jacobs moved her family to Toronto in the shadow of the Vietnam war, and she lived there
until her death. She continued to write books, such as The
Economy of Cities (1969) and Cities
and the Wealth of Nations (1984), furthering her theories by investigating fundamental
values in economy and society. She completed her organic approach by highlighting the
dangers of unfettered progressive thinking in what would be her last book, Dark
Age Ahead (2004).
In 1997, the City of Toronto sponsored a conference of hundreds of urban planners titled "Jane
Jacobs: Ideas That Matter" and created the Jane Jacobs Prize, to honour citizens
who contribute to the city’s vitality. She also received the Order of Canada in 1998.
Jacobs is survived by two sons and a daughter.