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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Video week: Jane Jacobs on neighborhoods, placemaking & active living

Kaid Benfield

Posted July 21, 2011

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  Jane Jacobs's most revered book (by: Rob Annable, creaive commons license) 

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 #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:

"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. Jane Jacobs in 2004 (original by Sam Beebe, cropped by Classical Geographer, Wikimedia Commons; creative commons license)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.

"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 home town.  Recommended: 


Every post this week will feature an educational and entertaining video.  Move your cursor over the images for credit information.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page

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DanJul 21 2011 11:20 AM

Thanks for posting this video Kaid. My favorite moment is Jane Jacob's explanation of why skateboarding is a good thing for kids.

Roberta BrandesJul 21 2011 11:46 AM

Wonderful entry. Watch the video of Jane Jacobs. It is a classic of her simple language to say what should be obvious to all.

Tyson DomerJul 22 2011 03:22 PM

Lots of images from Seattle in there!

George KochJul 25 2011 01:34 PM

Great! I saw and interview of Jane conducted by Richard Florida a the Artscape conference in Toronto. Brilliant!

Thanks for this link.

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