CIVIC Read

CIVIC Read 2015

Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Whenever and wherever societies have flourished and prospered rather than stagnated and decayed, creative and workable cities have been at the core of the phenomenon. Decaying cities, declining economies, and mounting social troubles travel together. The combination is not coincidental.”

2016 will mark 100 year since the birth of Jane Jacobs, an urban writer and activist who championed the methods of observation, common sense, and discovery to explain the inner workings of mid-century American Cities.   The Death and Life of Great American Cities, her most influential work, challenged modernist professional planning theory of the time by advocating for place and people-based interventions at the neighborhood and community level. In it, she argued that top-down urban renewal, slum clearing, and highway projects – the hallmarks of New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses -actually led to community destruction and economic downfall.  Her revolutionary writing and activism fostered a new planning ethos founded on humility rather than ego, local knowledge over expert opinion, and innovation over prescription. 

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” 

In 2015, the CDRC will celebrate Jane Jacobs and her 40 years of service through readings, discussions, and seminars of this 1961 work. 

Read a description of the book and its significance on the urban planning and design professions and biography of the author from the Project for Public Spaces. 

Listen to an excerpt of Jane Jacobs 1996 acceptance speech of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medalist in Architecture.