May 05, 2007

Jane Jacobs

This post is to commemorate Jane Jacobs: visionary urbanist, champion of livable cities, saviour of the West Village in New York, the Annex in Toronto, and vibrant, walkable, tightly knit urban neighbourhoods everywhere. Today is Jane Jacobs day in Toronto. Go out and take a walk, and think about how lucky we are to be able to do that.

"Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody."

All photographs here are stolen from google images, and I take no credit for them, though I do wish to thank their sources. One of them is of JJ with Philip Johnson, protesting the demolition of Penn Station; one example of what happens when we don't take care of our urban centers. The top photo is of Jacobs on her porch in Toronto. She moved her family there from NYC in 1968 in opposition of the Vietnam War.

After visiting New York in the winter of 2005/06, where I read Jane's the Death and Life of Great American Cities (among other texts on urban development, architecture and preservation), I decided that I had to meet her in Toronto later that summer; after all, she lived only blocks away from my neighbourhood cafe in the Annex, and she wrote about exactly what I loved and hated about living in cities. Sadly, she passed away before I had the chance.

Jane Jacobs on Wikipedia
Bio on the Project for Public Spaces website
The JJ Memorial Weblog
Jane Jacobs: Ideas that Matter
The Rockefeller Foundation's Jane Jacobs medal
JJ compares Toronto and Montreal on the CBC, 1969
JJ Day walks in Toronto
A photoessay of the West Village

and of course,
The Death and Life of Great American Cities said to be possibly the most influential American book on urban planning.

*addendum: It looks like things went well in Toronto!
Here a link to Jane's Walk photos on Flickr.


  1. I didn't find out about this until after the walks were over. I really wanted to do the Swansea / High Park walk. Boo.

  2. Jenny8:12 AM

    Yeah, i had to work that day. I wanted to do Cabbagetown and the Annex!
    Boo too.

  3. Right on Nick, for this post on Jane Jacob's amazing life and work.
    We actually ended up doing our own combo walk starting with the 'Free Comic Book Day' at The Beguiling, through Kensington and on to the Chinatown Dundas area past my old store(Leather Sandal shop in the '70s), and ending up just south of The Grange for a beer at Smokeless Joe's. The Gallery construction is coming along. We saw a group tour in Grange park. Sunny day for it. There must be those kinds of things in San Fan...?