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's 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-centered 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. 

    Publications of Jane Jacobs


    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.