Jane JacobsJane Jacobs.Photo: Sam Beebe

Cross-posted from Natural Resources Defense Council.

Amazingly, the video below is the first time I have seen and heard the late Jane Jacobs speak. Everyone in my world knows her work and her wisdom, of course: She was voted No. 1 in Planetizen‘s 2009 poll of urban thinkers. Her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was immensely influential to the field of urban planning. From that book’s Wikipedia entry:

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Jacobs argued that modernist urban planning rejects the city, because it rejects human beings living in a community characterized by layered complexity and seeming chaos. The modernist planners used deductive reasoning to find principles by which to plan cities. Among these policies the most violent was urban renewal; the most prevalent was and is the separation of uses (i.e. residential, industrial, commercial). These policies, she claimed, destroy communities and innovative economies by creating isolated, unnatural urban spaces.

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In their place Jacobs advocated for “four generators of diversity,” writing on page 151, “The necessity for these four conditions is the most important point this book has to make. In combination, these conditions create effective economic pools of use.”

  • Mixed uses.
  • Short blocks.
  • Buildings of various ages & states of repair.
  • Density.

Agreed. The excellent video below, produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, starts with some odd, dated footage but quickly becomes highly relevant to today’s thinking about communities and sustainability — and very enjoyable, too. It also includes a surprising name-check to my hometown. Recommended:

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