HomeGroupsTalkExploreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)

by Jane Jacobs

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,832362,748 (4.31)62
In this classic text, Jane Jacobs set out to produce an attack on current city planning and rebuilding and to introduce new principles by which these should be governed. The result is one of the most stimulating books on cities ever written. Throughout the post-war period, planners temperamentally unsympathetic to cities have been let loose on our urban environment. Inspired by the ideals of the Garden City or Le Corbusier's Radiant City, they have dreamt up ambitious projects based on self-contained neighbourhoods, super-blocks, rigid 'scientific' plans and endless acres of grass. Yet they seldom stop to look at what actually works on the ground. The real vitality of cities, argues Jacobs, lies in their diversity, architectural variety, teeming street life and human scale. It is only when we appreciate such fundamental realities that we can hope to create cities that are safe, interesting and economically viable, as well as places that people want to live in. 'Perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning... Jacobs has a powerful sense of narrative, a lively wit, a talent for surprise and the ability to touch the emotions as well as the mind' New York Times Book Review… (more)
Recently added byRonSchuler, private library, MGJG, mckmanes, TJSbooks, Timdifano, Lokayat, AddieWillow, sethclogan
Legacy LibrariesGillian Rose, Thomas C. Dent
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 62 mentions

English (34)  Catalan (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Abandoned
  Marietje.Halbertsma | Jan 9, 2022 |
171
  revirier | Dec 13, 2021 |
The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Modern Library Series) by Jane Jacobs (1993)
  arosoff | Jul 10, 2021 |
NA
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
The first half of this book is a phenomenal introduction to thinking about /how to live in a city./ On every page I was struck by an insight that codified what was the difference between cities I loved living in, and ones I didn't. Furthermore, the same analysis can be viewed as advice about how to choose a place to live, and what to do when you get there. As someone working on a big, unstructured move of my own in the next few months, this is particularly timely advice.

The second half is very clearly not meant for me; it talks about what to do with a city in order to avoid its death and promote its liveliness. While this is certainly an interesting topic, it's not one I have much agency over, nor do I plan to ever be in such a situation. After several chapters with low insight density, I decided to skim the remainder of the book, and I don't feel like I missed much.

Jacobs' argument rests on four pillars:
1) city streets are not just thoroughfares, they are where life in the city is /actively lived/
2) a neighborhood must bring in diverse people for diverse reasons in order to make streets safe
3) blocks must be short in order to facilitate many paths through them
4) there is a critical mass of humans necessary for city life, and thus high density residences are a necessity

Amidst these points, Jacobs discusses how parks fail, raising children in urban environments, what's wrong with housing projects, the ruinous effects of borders on neighborhoods and districts, along with a bevy of other somewhat tangential points. I suspect if I were a city planner I would have found a lot more value in these sections, but, well, I'm not and so I didn't.

In terms of how this book actually changed my thoughts on choosing a place to live, the following insights were particularly influential to me:

* When choosing where to live, work top down. Select a city based on stereotypes about the people who live there, and then drill down from there. Don't begin with the question of "what do I like in a city" and find a place that optimizes that.
* Life occurs in densely populated streets. Find a neighborhood that reflects this, and make an effort to spend your time outside.
* Neighborhoods run by way of an implicit, unofficial local government of citizens who have the interests of the neighborhood at heart. Think small business owners, church leaders, home owners, postal workers, etc. Being such a public figure is not a particularly hard thing to do, and should be strived for if you're looking for a sense of belonging, because everybody knows these people.
* Take responsibility for your neighborhood. Help people who look lost, even if they don't ask for it; keep an eye out for suspicious characters; let people know if they've missed the last bus; etc.
* Avoid places with large amounts of concurrent growth; these places will lose their diversity and die sooner than later.
* Old buildings gain economic value over time, in terms of the riskier ventures their low rent can afford.
* Aim to live on the seam between two neighborhoods; the juxtaposition of the two cultures is what creates an interesting place to live.

I'd rate the first half of this book as one of the top five books I've ever read. Very strongly recommended. ( )
2 vote isovector | Dec 13, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jane Jacobsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cavalheiro, Maria Estela HeiderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Epstein, JasonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Facetti, GermanoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paquot, ThierryAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parin, ClaireTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosa, Carlos S. MendesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
"Until lately the best thing that I was able to think of in favor of civilization, apart from blind acceptance of the order of the universe, was that it made possible the artist, the poet, the philosopher, and the man of science. But I think that is not the greatest thing. Now I believe that the greatest thing is a matter that comes directly home to us all. When it is said that we are too much occupied with the means of living to live, I answer that the chief worth of civilization is just that is makes the means of living more complex; that it calls for great and combined intellectual efforts, instead of simple, uncoordinated ones, in order that the crowd may be fed and clothed and housed and moved from place to place. Because more complex and intense intellectual efforts mean a fuller and richer life. They mean more life. Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether it is worth living is whether you have enough of it.

"I will add but a word. We are all very near despair. The sheathing that floats us over its waves is compounded of hope, faith in the unexplainable worth and sure issue of effort, and the deep, sub-conscious content which comes from the exercise of our powers."

-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Dedication
To New York City
where I came to seek my fortune
and found it by finding
Bob, Jimmy, Ned and Mary
for whom this is written too
First words
This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding. It is also, and mostly, an attempt to introduce new principles of city planning and rebuilding, different and even opposite from those now taught in everything from schools of architecture and planning to the Sunday supplements and women's magazines.
Quotations
"Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them. By old buildings I mean not museum-piece old buildings, not old buildings in an excellent state of rehabilitation — although these make fine ingredients — but also a good lot of plain, ordinary, low-value old buildings, including some rundown old buildings....

Even the enterprises that can support new construction in cities need old construction in their immediate vicinity. Otherwise they are part of a total attraction and total environment that is economically too limited — and therefore functionally too limited to be lively, interesting and convenient. Flourishing diversity anywhere in a city means the mingling of high-yield, middling-yield, low-yield and no-yield enterprises."
As in the pseudoscience of bloodletting, just so in the pseudoscience of city rebuilding and planning, years of learning and a plethora of subtle and complicated dogma have arisen on a foundation of nonsense.
As in all Utopias, the right to have plans of any significance belonged only to the planners in charge.
This is the most amazing event in the whole sorry tale: that finally people who sincerely wanted to strengthen great cities should adopt recipes frankly devised for undermining their economies and killing them.
the public peace . . . is kept primarily by an intricate, almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC
In this classic text, Jane Jacobs set out to produce an attack on current city planning and rebuilding and to introduce new principles by which these should be governed. The result is one of the most stimulating books on cities ever written. Throughout the post-war period, planners temperamentally unsympathetic to cities have been let loose on our urban environment. Inspired by the ideals of the Garden City or Le Corbusier's Radiant City, they have dreamt up ambitious projects based on self-contained neighbourhoods, super-blocks, rigid 'scientific' plans and endless acres of grass. Yet they seldom stop to look at what actually works on the ground. The real vitality of cities, argues Jacobs, lies in their diversity, architectural variety, teeming street life and human scale. It is only when we appreciate such fundamental realities that we can hope to create cities that are safe, interesting and economically viable, as well as places that people want to live in. 'Perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning... Jacobs has a powerful sense of narrative, a lively wit, a talent for surprise and the ability to touch the emotions as well as the mind' New York Times Book Review

No library descriptions found.

Book description
The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (1963)
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (4.31)
0.5
1 4
1.5 1
2 6
2.5 2
3 48
3.5 12
4 142
4.5 28
5 212

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 180,301,692 books! | Top bar: Always visible