Jane Jacobs, R.I.P

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Jane Jacobs died early this morning at age 89. She was the author of the influential book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities written in 1961 [via]. She was primarily responsible for calling for a revision in planning methods that had encouraged sprawl and environment-unfriendly behavior. She took on Robert Moses, ‘master builder’ of New York City and blamed him for making automobiles an essential part of the New York life. Thankfully, the effect has since worn off and subway now rules in the city. If you like living in a city, you probably would appreciate Jacob’s works.

Her work and writings has greatly influenced my thinking and understanding of urban space and the way we interact with people in a community. If the title of this post sounds cryptic, one of her arguments was that eyes on the street make it safer for the people. Crime and anti-social behavior is less likely to occur if the windows of the nearby homes and buildings open out into the street [explains why dark alleys have acquired a reputation, eh?] She makes this argument for compact living and more community spaces. The New Urbanism movement emphasizes too much on form whereas it should emphasis more on social connections that make a city more livable than the other.

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