Jane Jacobs


Jane Jacobs

    Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building. She had no formal training as a planner, and yet her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, introduced ground-breaking ideas about how cities function, evolve and fail. The impact of Jane Jacobs' observation, activism, and writing has led to a 'planning blueprint' for generations of architects, planners, politicians and activists to practice.

    Jacobs saw cities as integrated systems that had their own logic and dynamism which would change over time according to how they were used. With an eye for detail, she wrote eloquently about sidewalks, parks, retail design and self-organization. She promoted higher density in cities, short blocks, local economies and mixed uses. Jacobs helped derail the car-centred approach to urban planning in both New York and Toronto, invigorating neighborhood activism by helping stop the expansion of expressways and roads. She lived in Greenwich Village for decades, then moved to Toronto in 1968 where she continued her work and writing on urbanism, economies and social issues until her death in April 2006.

    A firm believer in the importance of local residents having input on how their neighborhoods develop, Jacobs encouraged people to familiarize themselves with the places where they live, work, and play. 

    Jane Jacobs' Publications


    Dark Age Ahead, Random House, 2004.

    The Nature of Economies, New York: Modern Library/ Random House, 2000.

    A SCHOOLTEACHER IN OLD ALASKA: The Story of Hannah Breece, Owen Sound, Ontario: Ginger Press, 1995.

    Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics, New York: Random House, 1992.

    Cities and the Wealth of Nations, New York: Random House, 1984.

    A Question of Separatism: Quebec and the Struggle over Sovereignty, New York: Random House, 1980.

    The Economy of Cities, New York: Random House, 1969.

    The Death and Life of Great American Cities, New York: Random House and Vintage Books, 1961.

    Ideas That Matter: The Worlds of Jane Jacobs, edited by Max Allen, Owen Sound, Ontario: The Ginger Press, 1997. 



    “Downtown is for People,” Fortune, April 1958.

    “Vital Little Plans,” in Conference Report titled, “Safdie/Rouse/Jacobs: An Exchange.”

    “Putting Toronto’s Best Self Forward,” Places, 7:2.

    “Market Nurturing Run Amok,” Openair-Market Net, October 1995.

    “Why TVA Failed,” The New York Review of Books, vol 31, no. 8, May 10, 1984.

    Essay on Charles Dickens’s Hard Times, in The New York Review of Books, 48 (12), July 19, 2001.

    Introduction to the new edition of Hard Times, by Charles Dickens, New York: Modern Library, 2002.

    Introduction to the new edition of The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, New York: Modern Library, 2002.

    Introduction to the new edition of Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain, New York: Modern Library, 2003.


    Jane in the Headlines

    Check out these great articles and interviews about Jane Jacobs and how her legacy leaves an indelible mark on the way we see and understand our communities.


    Jane in the Headlines

    Check out these great articles and interviews about Jane Jacobs and how her legacy leaves an indelible mark on the way we see and understand our communities.


    Articles about Jane Jacobs

    We are continuously gathering articles and materials for this collection, so check back often. We also invite you to contribute to this collection. Just email chelsea@centerforthelivingcity.org. Thank you! 




    Jane Jacobs (L), Robert Moses (R) www.macleans.ca

    Jane Jacobs (L), Robert Moses (R) www.macleans.ca




    • Saunders, Doug, “Citizen Jane,” The Globe and Mail, 11 Oct 1997.
    • Kapusta, Beth, “How Jacobs Changed a City,” The Globe and Mail, 11 Oct 1997.
    • Hume, Christopher, “Jacobs sees humanity among urban concrete,” Toronto Star, 18 Sep 1997.
    • Martin, Sandra, “An urban legend,” Maclean’s, 20 Oct 1997.
    • Barber, John, “Jacobs embraced as economic guru,” The Globe and Mail, 15 Oct 1997.

    Leonard Gilroy, Urban Planners Are Blind to What Jane Jacobs Really Saw, The Wall Street Journal, 2006 


    Interviews with Jane Jacobs

    http://www.pedestrians.org Jane Jacobs gives a half hour talk at the National Building Museum after receiving the Vincent Scully Prize on November 11, 2000. Jacobs was the author of "The Death and Life of Great American Cities". By John Z Wetmore, producer of "Perils For Pedestrians".


    You can find the full transcribed text here, thanks to Chris Bradshaw.  

    From CBC TV's "The Way It Is" program, circa 1969, urbanist and author Jane Jacobs comments on late 1960s Toronto and Montreal on how they have been planned and built, while condemning major highways planned for GTO.

    "[T]he New Urbanists want to have lively centers in the places that they develop, where people run into each other doing errands and that sort of thing. And yet, from what I've seen of their plans and the places they have built, they don't seem to have a sense of the anatomy of these hearts, these centers.

    From Ric Burns' masterful PBS documentary about New York City comes this inspiring David and Goliath story of the battle for human scale neighborhoods. If only we'd had a Charleston version of Jane Jacobs in the 60s.

    Jane Jacobs: Parting Words captures urban thinker, writer, and activist Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) in her final public appearance in Portland, Oregon. On tour to promote her book, DARK AGE AHEAD (2004), Jacobs discusses the imperative for culturally diverse and innovative cities, among numerous other issues.

    Jane Jacobs, visionary, activist, and guru of urban planning, talks about her new book called, "Dark Age Ahead." (Original broadcast May 2004)                                     


    Produced by the Active Living Network, a project of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. An interview with legendary author, Jane Jacobs, who wrote "The Death and Life of Great American Cities." The film explores the role of the built environment in physical activity and public health. 9:45 Total Length