Jane Jacobs : life, legacy, interpretation

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Lyes, Madeleine
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Dublin Business School
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In this paper, I examine one particular contemporary response to the legacy of Jane Jacobs, one of the foremost urban thinkers of the twentieth century, with reference to Jacobs’ early and most formative work. I’m looking at Sharon Zukin’s 2009 text, Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Place which directly invokes Jacobs’ text. I look at Zukin’s criticisms of Jacobs, to assess, to a certain extent, how fair or unfair they may be, but beyond this, to examine how interpretations of Jacobs’ legacy continue to be powerful – in positive and negative ways – today. Jacobs’ text dealt with her research into the current condition of the American city, and how, in her opinion, traditional planning approaches were killing the vibrancy and diversity she saw functioning so well in her own neighbourhood in Greenwich Village in New York. Zukin grapples with similar issues today. This paper questions the interpretations of Jacobs’ legacy, and attempts an assessment of how the political aspects of that legacy may be reinvigorated.