The Life of Jane Jacobs (Alfred A. Knopf), by Robert Kanigel
Nov. 29, 2016
In a time when women were expected to be quiet, and when “urban renewal” was turning cities into wastelands, Jane Jacobs was a loud voice calling for historic preservation. Jacobs extolled urban environments as lively spaces for people to inhabit, not cold abstractions mapped out on graph paper. Her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), was a trumpet blast that continues to reverberate. Robert Kanigel’s biography emphasizes Jacob’s roots in progressive politics, her distrust of soulless experts and her realization that cities should be organic, not, as she complained, based on “the logic of egocentric children, playing with pretty blocks and shouting, ‘See what I made!’” Cities, she believed, belong to those who live in them.