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Happy 100th Birthday, Jane Jacobs
As the author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities and a tireless advocate for the urban experience, Jane Jacobs is one of the most commonly cited luminaries of planning and urbanism.
Websites around the country have been commemorating what would have been Jacobs's 100th birthday today, May 4, 2016. Here's a brief roundup of recommended reads.
Charles Marohn kicks off Jane Jacobs week at Strong Towns by offering his take on the points made by Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities and elsewhere, which he believes might have been lost by a long history of revisionism and misunderstanding:
I read her as an intellectual radical, someone akin to Charles Darwin or even a Leonardo da Vinci, a person who was far more worried about the thought process used to approach complex problems than any specific outcome. I found in her writing a true scientific mind, always observing, testing and learning from the world around her. The slogans subsequently adopted by the planning profession on mixed use, density and walkability are mere byproducts of this radical core, an oversimplification, if you will.
Nate Storring writes an op-ed for Next City calling for compatriots to celebrate the occasion by participating in a Jane's Walk. According to Storring, Jane's Walk embodies what Jacobs called "self-organization":
Jane’s Walk embodies Jacobs’ organic, democratic ideals by providing an open-ended platform. Anyone can lead a walk about nearly anything. For this year’s festival in Toronto, walk leaders have already submitted tours about skateboarding, secret staircases, ghost stories, community organizing, queer history, preservation, urban birding and labyrinths.
Edward Gunts writes a similarly-motivated article for The Architect's Newspaper, offering a list of ideas for commemorating the big birthday. Gunts provides a list of events, another list of exhibitions, and finally a list of new literary works as potential sources of inspiration and commemoration on the centennial.
Brad Wheeler, of The Globe and Mail, interviewed Jim Jacobs, son of Jane Jacobs, on the occasion of Jane at Home, an exhibition of photographs and personal items. Jim Jacobs relates the very cool anecdote of a song written by Jane Jacobs and Bob Dylan, called "Listen, Robert Moses."
UPDATE: Josh Stephens also wrote a long editorial about the ongoing significance of Jacobs's life and career for The Architect's Newspaper.