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Jane Jacobs, 1916-2006

David Beach  |  04/26/06 @ 10:46pm

Lovers of cities were saddened yesterday to hear about the death of Jane Jacobs. Her 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, revolutionized urban planning by focusing not on esoteric planning theories but on how people actually use streets, parks, stores, and neighborhoods. She celebrated the chaotic jumble of city life — observing, for instance, that busy, densely populated, mixed-use neighborhoods tend to be quite safe because of the "eyes on the street" at all hours.

Jacobs arrived on the scene just in time to save American cities from the total destruction of mass urban renewal. As a civic intellectual, she was one of a trio of independent, courageous, and visionary women — the others were Rachel Carson (Silent Spring, 1962) and Betty Friedan (The Feminine Mystique, 1963) — who appeared in the early '60s to inspire movements that changed the world. Read her books!

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