4 Stories to Help you See Jane Jacobs in a New Light

Jane Jacobs was far more than just a champion of walkable neighborhoods and mixed-use buildings. She spoke out against the traditional planning profession, pushed for fiscal responsibility and demanded that people really think for themselves—not just insert prescribed plans for "the ideal neighborhood."

Here are 4 articles that illustrate her more challenging and bold viewpoints:

1. Who Plans? Jane Jacobs' Hayekian Critique of Planning

by Nolan Gray

"As Hayek did in the case of economics, Jacobs stood up to an urban planning orthodoxy that enjoyed the support of policymakers, academics, and all the “Very Serious People.” She celebrated the wisdom of everyday people when the relevant experts found answers only in statistical aggregates and economic calculus. Hayek and Jacobs defended the importance of local knowledge, illustrated the power of decentralized planning, and celebrated the sublime spontaneous orders that organize our lives..."

Read the rest of the article. You can also hear our interview with Nolan Gray talking more about this topic on the Strong Towns podcast.

2. Import Replacement

by Charles Marohn

"Many people associate Jacobs with a love of walkable neighborhoods, urban parks and historic buildings. What they fail to grasp -- and what many fail to grasp about Strong Towns -- is that these are means to an end, not the end itself. The end for Jacobs was always economies and the complex relationships that allow humanity to flourish..."   Read the rest of the article.

3. Organized Complexity

by Charles Marohn

"Jacobs laments the state of thought regarding cities as being far behind that of the life sciences, the latter of which had recognized and embraced the notion of organized complexity. Jacobs points out that, "the theorists of conventional modern city planning have consistently mistaken cities as problems of simplicity and of disorganized complexity, and have tried to analyze and treat them thus." How little has changed since 1961."   Read the rest of the article.

4. Jane Jacobs, an Urban Ecologist

by Seth Zeren

"Central to her point, and the overall vision of the book, is the need for humility in design, planning, and development. Lately I’ve been referring to this as the need for incompleteness; leaving open the idea that the city is never “finished” and that we must leave space for others and future generations to iterate on top of our work today. Call it the doctrine of Incomplete Urbanism."  Read the rest of the article.

(Top image from the Library of Congress)

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