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The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Vintage) [Paperback]

Jane Jacobs
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 May 1993
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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The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Vintage) + The Image of the City (Harvard-Mit Joint Center for Urban Studies) + Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space
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Product details

  • Paperback: 458 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Vintage Books ed edition (13 May 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067974195X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679741954
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"The most refreshing, provacative, stimulating and exciting study of this [great problem] which I have seen. It fairly crackles with bright honesty and common sense" (Harrison Salisbury New York Times)

"One of the most remarkable books ever written about the city... a primary work. The research apparatus is not pretentious it is the eye and the heart but it has given us a magnificent study of what gives life and spirit to the city" (William H. Whyte, author of The Organization Man)

"Perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning... Jacobs has a powerful sense of narrative, a lively wit, a talent for surprise and the ability to touch the emotions as well as the mind" (New York Times Book Review)

"An immensely provocative and rewarding book... It challenges comfortable assumptions...but it does so in a manner that is neither rancorous nor contentions" (Jonathan Yardley Washington Post) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A groundbreaking critique of 20th-century urban planning and a classic of post-ware social thought. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
Streets in cities serve many purposes besides carrying vehicles, and city sidewalks-the pedestrian parts of the streets-serve many purposes besides carrying pedestrians. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Even 35 years after it was written, The Death and Life of Great American
Cities remains the classic book on how cities work and
how urban planners and others have naively destroyed
functioning cities. It is widely known for its incisive
treatment of those who would tear down functioning neighborhoods
and destroy the lives and livelihoods of people for the sake of a
groundless but intellectually appealing daydream.

But although many see it as a polemic against urban planning,
the best parts of it, the parts that have endeared it to
many who love cities, are quite different. Death and Life
is, first of all, a work of observation. The illustrations
are all around us, she says, and we must go and look. She
shows us parts of the city that are alive -- the streets,
she says, are the city that we see, and it is the streets and
sidewalks that carry the most weight -- and find the patterns
that help us not merely see but understand. She shows us the city as
an ecology -- a system of interactions that is more than
merely the laying out of buildings as if they were a
child's wooden blocks.

But observation can mean simply the noting of objects.
Ms. Jacobs writes beautifully, lovingly, of New York
City and other urban places. Her piece "The Ballet of
Hudson Street" is both an observation of events on the
Greenwich Village street where she lived and a prose poem
describing the comings and goings of the people, the rhythms
of the shopkeepers and the commuters and others who use the
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why was she ignored? 21 May 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this book fascinating. I live and work in a country that has been badly planned since the war and that suffers from all the mistakes that Jane Jacobs describes. What astonishes me is that planning was not influenced by this book when it was written. Most if its lessons are self-evidently correct. Yet even today planners continue to zone for dead, empty streets and monopolistic commerce. It has opened my eyes and made me feel a little angry. I wasn't interested in planning or urbanisation before I read this book, but now I am.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece 23 Dec 2009
By Marcia
I couldn't actually put this book down, this book about urban planning from almost 50 years ago! But it contains so much sense, currency, intellect and elegance that it transcends not only its subject matter, but also geography and time. It is at once a book of treasure observations, enlightening insights and encompassing philosophies. I daresay anyone can learn something from Jane Jacobs.

The hardback is great as a present, especially as its cover is a photo of Jane herself. I can't help but feel drawn to this revelational work's author, as most readers who enjoy this book will do. So seeing her in her element, conversing and observing, brings one even closer to this very personal work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to create cities that work 9 Jun 2010
Good: commonsensical (or does it just seem so in retrospect?), imaginative, solutions-focused, people-oriented and persuasively argued. Bad: evidence is mostly anecdotal (despite her enthusiasm for the scientific method) and she labours her points.

Her point about not forcing successful people out via income segregation is well made - especially as this is still regularly suggested in the name of 'fairness'; and her discussions about public transport and the alternative to a proliferation of cars even more so.

Interesting though to consider how many of the advantages of city life (as she understood them) may not now exist - or at any rate may not be so marked - in the Information Age. New ideas, niche products, a wide variety of people: they can all be had virtually.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary book 19 July 2007
I first encountered this book in the early 1980s when I was a geography student taking an Urban studies' course at Manchester University. I thought it was fantastic then and my own copy was very well thumbed. Somewhere in the course of several moves I have lost the book - but recently, with a geography student daughter of my own, I have been reminded of it and am so glad that I have tracked it down via Amazon - I have to admit that at the time I did not realise how influential Jane Jacobs was in her field. I hope it lives up to my recollections of it on rereading!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars urban 8 Oct 2004
A little slow, but then again, who else addresses the real conditions of city living without a load of fantasy academic nonsense? Jacobs highlights the issues and processes that transform city districts into hostlie or livable areas - and it's not planners and estate agents that she's thanking! Nice to see some actual research make its way into a useful, readable book on urban living / planning.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cities that work, and cities that don't 1 Mar 2013
Jane Jacobs is the Edmund Burke of urban planning. I doubt there's any compliment higher than that. In Death and Life she takes on the modernist planners and their grand projects, visions of 'urban renewal' and single-use neighborhoods, that she says create uneconomical, unnatural, isolated and deadening urban spaces.

Jacobs instead champions four factors that generate not only vibrancy, but economic viability.

1. Mixed uses, with different street activities at different times of the day
2. Short blocks, which allow high pedestrian permeability
3. A mixture of old and new buildings of various ages (and states of repair)
4. Density

The examples here are a bit dated, but the book will make you think about your own environment and how we experience and use cities.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The book that cast the mold for modern urban studies
This is a breathtaking book, a keynote publication on urban geography and sociology. It is as fresh today as it was when it was written in 1961. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Gary White
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
absolutely a great purchase!
Published 2 months ago by Waliy A.
5.0 out of 5 stars great book!
great book! great cover, handling etc! i study architecture and it was really helpful for typing my essay. Read more
Published 7 months ago by ioannis boulougras
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful
A snapshot of New York we don't often hear about. A fascinating and insightful account from the mind and time of Jane Jacobs.
Published 16 months ago by Daniel Grbas
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent!
A great classic. A must read for anyone who wishes to understand how our cities operate and the small things that affect it. Read more
Published on 25 Aug 2012 by Coco
5.0 out of 5 stars a must for those in social and urban design spheres
A must read for those who think that the city is an unworkable mess and that sub-urban layouts are the best solution for the world populatioons. Read more
Published on 2 Sep 2011 by Sammy Elaasar
4.0 out of 5 stars I Developed Doubts About This Book: Is Jacobs the Chomsky of Urban...
I was introduced to this book in about 1970 by a girl who'd completed an M.A. on England's first council estate. Both she, and this book, impressed me. Read more
Published on 12 May 2009 by Rerevisionist
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