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Jane Jacobs, in Her Own Words

"Ordinary people are capable of wonderful things without even knowing they’re doing wonderful things."
relates to Jane Jacobs, in Her Own Words
Library of Congress

Wednesday would be the 100th birthday of Jane Jacobs, the legendary author, theorist, and activist who left a most enduring mark on the form and philosophy of cities. Pushing back against the fortress-like high-rises and new urban highways of the 1960s, Jacobs observed and articulated the qualities of truly thriving cities: They are built with communities, not single-use sectors, in mind. They allow organic interactions and support creative exchange. Their streets and architecture are oriented to the human scale.

Though she isn’t around to participate (Jacobs died in 2006), countless lectures, walking tours, and publications are commemorating her centenary. There’s a documentary and an opera in production. There’s no shortage of essays meditating on her legacy. With all the analysis in the air, it’s worth revisiting Jacobs’ own words. A slim new book serves this purpose: Jane Jacobs: The Last Interview & Other Conversations (Melville House, 2016) assembles four wide-ranging dialogues between Jacobs, journalists, and other thinkers from 1962 to 2005. We’ve selected some of the most striking insights and advisories from the essential urban visionary.