It is an irony of history that Jane Jacobs, the author of the most famous attack on the field of planning, is regarded today as its preeminent lodestar. Her most prominent work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, continues to shape our understanding of cities and to fuel discussion surrounding their study and planning. In that book, Jacobs grounded her arguments in meticulous observations of 1950s Greenwich Village to weigh in on matters as far ranging as the ideal city form, the importance of older buildings, the functional uses of diversity, the relationship between built form and social activity, and the proper vantage point for analyzing neighborhoods. Jacobs’ insights on these matters remain common currency in planning and preservation debate, and are regularly deployed in support of even contradictory propositions. 

Does this widespread application of Jacobs’ work stem at this point merely from the legitimacy that she provides by association? Or do her perspectives on Greenwich Village, as it was over 60 years ago — perspectives developed in response to the excesses of planning practice at the time — remain relevant to the planning of our neighborhoods today? In short, what are the uses, misuses, and limitations of Jane Jacobs in planning the contemporary neighborhood? 

To help us think through these questions, we will be joined by three of our foremost urban scholars.

Susan S. Fainstein is a Senior Research Fellow in the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her research interests include planning theory, urban theory, urban redevelopment, and comparative urban policy focusing on the United States, Europe, and East Asia. Among her publications are The Just City; The City Builders: Property, Politics, and Planning in London and New York; and Restructuring the City; and Urban Political Movements. She has co-edited volumes on urban tourism (The Tourist City and Cities and Visitors), planning theory (Readings in Planning Theory), urban theory (Readings in Urban Theory), and gender (Gender and Planning) and has authored over 100 book chapters and articles in scholarly journals. She received the Distinguished Educator Award of the Association of American Schools of Planning (ACSP), which recognizes lifetime career achievement, the Davidoff Book Award of the ACSP, and has been a resident fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Center for Scholars at Bellagio.

Susan B. Fainstein

Sharon Zukin is Professor Emerita of Sociology at Brooklyn College and at the CUNY Graduate Center. She has published extensively on transformations of urban life and urban living over the past half century. Her books include The Innovation Complex: Cities, Tech, and the New Economy; Loft Living; The Culture of Cities; Landscapes of Power; and Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places.  Zukin has been a Broeklundian Professor at Brooklyn College; a visiting professor at the University of Amsterdam, the University of Western Sydney, and Tongji University; and a distinguished fellow in the Advanced Research Collaborative at the CUNY Graduate Center. She received the Lynd Award for Career Achievement in urban sociology from the American Sociological Association and won the C. Wright Mills Book Award for Landscapes of Power.

Sharon Zukin

M. Christine Boyer is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the Princeton School of Architecture. Her interests include the history of the city, city planning, preservation planning, and computer science. Among her notable publications are Dreaming the Rational City: The Myth of American City Planning 1890-1945; The City of Collective Memory; Not Quite Architecture: Writing around Alison and Peter SmithsonManhattan Manners: Architecture and Style 1850-1900; and CyberCities. Boyer received an award from the Department of Art and Archaeology Publication Fund, for the publication of Le Corbusier: Homme de Lettres (1910-1947).

M. Christine Boyer
Tuesday, November 14, 2023
6:00 pm

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