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The Death and Life of Great American Cities

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

"I don't attend city planning meetings for fun or sport, and I'm not
well informed on the technical details, but I read this on a whim, as
a person who grew up in cities.

This book has changed the way I think about cities and urban planning,
because previously, I didn't. Jane Jacobs lays out her position in
clear prose, has a wonderful way of creating pictures in the text, and
doesn't mince words: city planners misunderstand the nature of cities
and undermine their potential. She emphasizes the importance of
"diversity of use" within a healthy city, where bars and shops and
houses nestle next to each other.

When first published in 1961, the North End of Boston was known as a
horrible slum due to the lack of open space and proximity to industry.
In contrast, Jacobs declared the area a model for urban growth, and
predicted that if left alone by city planners, the neighborhood would
continue to flourish.

At heart, Jacobs argues for optimism about cities. There's no need to
demolish everything and rebuild, but only to encourage natural human

Ali B.

See all my recommendations »

Author Jane Jacobs
Publisher Vintage
Publication Date 1992-12-01
Section Urban Studies / All Staff Suggestions / Carole H. / Ali B.
Type New
Format Paperback
ISBN 9780679741954

A direct and fundamentally optimistic indictment of the short-sightedness and intellectual arrogance that has characterized much of urban planning in this century, The Death and Life of Great American Cities has, since its first publication in 1961, become the standard against which all endeavors in that field are measured. In prose of outstanding immediacy, Jane Jacobs writes about what makes streets safe or unsafe; about what constitutes a neighborhood, and what function it serves within the larger organism of the city; about why some neighborhoods remain impoverished while others regenerate themselves. She writes about the salutary role of funeral parlors and tenement windows, the dangers of too much development money and too little diversity. Compassionate, bracingly indignant, and always keenly detailed, Jane Jacobs's monumental work provides an essential framework for assessing the vitality of all cities.

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