Jane Jacobs, RIP

The Death and Life of Great American Cities changed the way I look at the world. I read it as an eighteen year old kid living in a village in New Hampshire – a kid who was fascinated with the big cities to the south.

Jane Jacobs wrote that book as an independent operator outside of the scholarly circles of urban planning and social policy. She simply looked closely at the world and noted the things that were so obviously wrong about how we were developing our cities. Meanwhile, the experts, the academics and the social policy gurus toiled away building faceless housing projects that would effectively destroy the fabric of urban life for several generations.

There’s not much outside of her writing that Ms. Jacobs and I might have agreed upon. But given her wonderful and seminal first book, I feel indebted to her for life. Her death this week makes the world a poorer place.