Sarah's Reviews > The Death and Life of Great American Cities

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
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's review
Oct 21, 09

bookshelves: 2009, five-stars
Read in October, 2009

Yes! I finally finished it! This book is incredibly relevant to urban design and planning today, despite its advanced age. Jacobs was clearly a visionary and much of what she recommends still influences urban designers today. Most notable is her commitment to social justice in urban design. A long read, but worth it.
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Quotes Sarah Liked

Jane Jacobs
“A city street equipped to handle strangers, and to make a safety asset, in itself, our of the presence of strangers, as the streets of successful city neighborhoods always do, must have three main qualities:

First, there must be a clear demarcation between what is public space and what is private space. Public and private spaces cannot ooze into each other as they do typically in suburban settings or in projects.

Second, there must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street. The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to insure the safety of both residents and strangers, must be oriented to the street. They cannot turn their backs or blank sides on it and leave it blind.

And third, the sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“[Public housing projects] are not lacking in natural leaders,' [Ellen Lurie, a social worker in East Harlem] says. 'They contain people with real ability, wonderful people many of them, but the typical sequence is that in the course of organization leaders have found each other, gotten all involved in each others' social lives, and have ended up talking to nobody but each other. They have not found their followers. Everything tends to degenerate into ineffective cliques, as a natural course. There is no normal public life. Just the mechanics of people learning what s going on is so difficult. It all makes the simplest social gain extra hard for these people.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“Play on lively, diversified sidewalks differs from virtually all other daily incidental play offered American children today: It is play not conducted in a matriarchy.

Most city architectural designers and planners are men. Curiously, they design and plan to exclude men as part of normal, daytime life wherever people live. In planning residential life, they aim at filling the presumed daily needs of impossibly vacuous housewives and preschool tots. They plan, in short, strictly for matriarchal societies.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“As children get older, this incidental outdoor activity--say, while waiting to be called to eat--becomes less bumptious, physically and entails more loitering with others, sizing people up, flirting, talking, pushing, shoving and horseplay. Adolescents are always being criticized for this kind of loitering, but they can hardly grow up without it. The trouble comes when it is done not within society, but as a form of outlaw life.

The requisite for any of these varieties of incidental play is not pretentious equipment of any sort, but rather space at an immediately convenient and interesting place. The play gets crowded out if sidewalks are too narrow relative to the total demands put on them. It is especially crowded out if the sidewalks also lack minor irregularities in building line. An immense amount of both loitering and play goes on in shallow sidewalk niches out of the line of moving pedestrian feet.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets, the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-located parks that can thus give back grace and delight to their neighborhoods instead of vacuity. ”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“Neighborhood is a word that has come to sound like a Valentine. As a sentimental concept, 'neighborhood' is harmful to city planning. It leads to attempts at warping city life into imitations of town or suburban life. Sentimentality plays with sweet intentions in place of good sense.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“You can neither lie to a neighbourhood park, nor reason with it. 'Artist's conceptions' and persuasive renderings can put pictures of life into proposed neighbourhood parks or park malls, and verbal rationalizations can conjure up users who ought to appreciate them, but in real life only diverse surroundings have the practical power of inducing a natural, continuing flow of life and use.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“To generate exuberant diversity in a city's streets and districts four conditions are indispensable:

1. The district, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible, must serve more than one primary function; preferably more than two...

2. Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.

3. The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones so that they vary in the economic yield they must produce. This mingling must be fairly close-grained.

4. There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people, for whatever purposes they may be there...”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“No neighbourhood or district, no matter how well established, prestigious or well heeled and no matter how intensely populated for one purpose, can flout the necessity for spreading people through time of day without frustrating its potential for generating diversity.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“I have been dwelling upon downtowns. This is not because mixtures of primary uses are unneeded elsewhere in cities. On the contrary they are needed, and the success of mixtures downtown (on in the most intensive portions of cities, whatever they are called) is related to the mixture possible in other part of cities.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“(The psuedoscience of planning seems almost neurotic in its determination to imitate empiric failure and ignore empiric success.)”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“...frequent streets and short blocks are valuable because of the fabric of intricate cross-use that they permit among the users of a city neighbouhood.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“There is a widespread belief that americans hate cities. I think it is probable that Americans hate city failure, but, from the evidence, we certainly do not hate successful and vital city areas. On the contrary, so many people want to make use of such places, so many people want to work in them or live in them or visit in them, that municipal self-destruction ensues. In killing successful diversity combinations with money, we are employing perhaps our nearest equivalent to killing with kindness.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“Everyone is aware that tremendous numbers of people concentrate in city downtowns and that, if they did not, there would be no downtown to amount to anything--certainly not one with much downtown diversity.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“Neighborhoods built up all at once change little physically over the years as a rule...[Residents] regret that the neighborhood has changed. Yet the fact is, physically it has changed remarkably little. People's feelings about it, rather, have changed. The neighborhood shows a strange inability to update itself, enliven itself, repair itself, or to be sought after, out of choice, by a new generation. It is dead. Actually it was dead from birth, but nobody noticed this much until the corpse began to smell.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“Detroit is largely composed, today, of seemingly endless square miles of low-density failure.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“There are fashions in building. Behind the fashions lie economic and technological reasons, and these fashions exclude all but a few genuinely different possibilities in city dwelling construction at any one time.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“Googie architecture could...be seen in its finest flowering among the essentially homogeneous and standardized enterprises of roadside commercial strips: hot-dog stands in the shape of hot dogs, ice-cream stands in the shape of ice-cream cones. There are obvious examples of virtual sameness trying, by dint of exhibitionism, to appear unique and different from their similar commercial neighbors.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“By its nature, the metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by traveling; namely, the strange.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“A border--the perimeter of a single massive or stretched-out use of territory--forms the edge of an area of 'ordinary' city. Often borders are thought of as passive objects, or matter-of-factly just as edges. However, a border exerts an active influence.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
“I tis hopeless to try to convert some borders into seams. Expressways and their ramps are examples. Moreover, even in the case of large parks, campuses or waterfronts, the barrier effects can likely be overcome well only along portions of perimeters.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities


Reading Progress

09/17/2009 page 143
30.3%
10/06/2009 page 257
54.45% "So many quotable lines in this book -- and still relevant nearly 50 years later."
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