The Death and Life of Great American Cities

By: Jane Jacobs

In August 2020, we read this classic of urban planning together. You’ll find discussion questions and other material below. Feel free to leave a comment, too!

Here is the description of the book:

A direct and fundamentally optimistic indictment of the short-sightedness and intellectual arrogance that has characterized much of urban planning in this century, The Death and Life of Great American Cities has, since its first publication in 1961, become the standard against which all endeavors in that field are measured. In prose of outstanding immediacy, Jane Jacobs writes about what makes streets safe or unsafe; about what constitutes a neighborhood, and what function it serves within the larger organism of the city; about why some neighborhoods remain impoverished while others regenerate themselves. She writes about the salutary role of funeral parlors and tenement windows, the dangers of too much development money and too little diversity. Compassionate, bracingly indignant, and always keenly detailed, Jane Jacobs’s monumental work provides an essential framework for assessing the vitality of all cities.

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Topics Covered

Context

Discussion Questions

Inspired by the way Jane Jacobs describes the neighbourhood ballet and the main “ingredients” for a successful neighbourhood, I wrote this article:

The Four Magic Ingredients for a Good Neighbourhood, According to Jane Jacobs

 

Additionally, you might like these resources:

While we read one book a month, I always recommend additional reads. In the case of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, you should consider looking into Lewis Mumford’s work. You can find his review of Jane Jacobs here, in a 1962 edition of The New Yorker.

 

Lastly, you can supplement your reading by watching this great documentary about Jane Jacobs:

 

 

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