Jacobs, Jane

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Jacobs, Jane,

1916–2006, American-Canadian urbanologist, b. Scranton, Pa., as Jane Butzner. She moved to New York City in the 1930s, was an editor (1952–64) of Architectural Forum magazine, and wrote (mid-1950s) on urban affairs and architecture for Fortune magazine, most notably the controversial "Downtown Is for People" (1958), which criticized urban renewal. She became an effective leader in efforts to preserve Greenwich Village, where she lived, and adjoining Soho, particularly opposing the development schemes of Robert MosesMoses, Robert,
1888–1981, U.S. public official, b. New Haven, Conn. He was appointed (1919) by Alfred E. Smith to the committee to study and revamp New York state government machinery, became (1924) chairman of the state council of parks, and served (1927–28) as New
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. Her first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), proved to be one of the most influential works in city planning and has been especially important to America's New Urbanists. In it, Jacobs advocated the free and spontaneous growth of cities, condemned modernist planning with its socially isolating Corbusian (see Le CorbusierLe Corbusier
, pseud. of Charles Édouard Jeanneret
, 1887–1965, French architect, b. La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Often known simply as "Corbu," he was one of the most influential architects of the 20th cent.
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) superblocks of large multistory apartment buildings, decried urban renewal's wholesale destruction of communities and their healthy street life, and argued for high-density neighborhoods and multiple-use buildings as the foundations of vital, socially successful city living. Jacobs and her family moved in 1968 to Toronto, where she also was active in city development, and became a Canadian citizen in 1973. Her later books, which focused on urban and regional economies as well as on broader topics, include The Economy of Cities (1969), Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1984), Systems of Survival (1992), The Nature of Economies (2000), and Dark Age Ahead (2004).


See S. Zipp and N. Storring, ed., Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs (2016); Jane Jacobs: The Last Interview and Other Conversations (2016); biographies by A. S. Alexiou (2006), G. Lang and M. Wunsch (2008), R. Kanigel (2016), and P. L. Laurence (2016); M. Allen, Ideas That Matter: The World of Jane Jacobs (1997); T. Mennel et al., ed., Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York (2007); A. Flint, Wrestling with Moses (2009).

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Jacobs, Jane (b. Butzner)

(1916–  ) urban theorist, author; born in Scranton, Pa. Associate editor of Architectural Forum (1952–68), she gained a reputation for attacking urban planners for destroying diverse older neighborhoods with expressways and housing projects; her most influential work was The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961). She served on the New York Community Planning Board and was active in trying to save communities such as Greenwich Village. In 1968 she moved to Toronto, Canada, where her architect-husband, Robert Hyde Jacobs Jr., had accepted a position. There she was briefly a consultant to the urban-legal program of the University of New York Law School, but she concentrated on her own writings such as Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1989) and Systems of Survival (1992).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.