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Jane Jacobs on cities and the economy

The Story

With her astute observations about the way we live, Jane Jacobs dynamically changed the urban landscape. The author, activist, theorist and self-taught philosopher challenged the establishment with her ideas about cities and the economy. In this CBC Television clip from 1969, Jacobs, a new immigrant to Canada, discusses Toronto's quirks and Montreal's creativity. Jacobs was most famous for her influential book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961. At the time, Jacobs's book was considered radical for its staunch opposition to the raze and clear urban renewal projects of the era. But Death and Life spoke to city dwellers who wanted to protect existing communities. Jacobs's book has since become a classic and is often cited as the bible for urban planners. For her prolific works and activism, Jacobs herself became known as the city guru and, as CBC's Hana Gartner called her: the incomparable "rebel with a cause."

Medium: Television
Program: The Way It Is
Broadcast Date: March 2, 1969
Guest(s): Jane Jacobs
Reporter: Ken Lefolii
Duration: 11:21

Did You know?

• Jane Butzner was born on May 4, 1916 in Scranton, Pa.
• Jacobs earned a high-school diploma and took a few college courses but has no formal university education.
• In 1944, Jacobs married Robert Hyde Jacobs, an architect who specialized in hospital design. They raised three children together.

• While living in Manhattan, Jacobs defeated city planner Robert Moses' designs to construct a highway through the tight-knit, bohemian neighbourhood of Greenwich Village. While academics balked at her ideas, the general public agreed with her urban planning principles.

• In opposition to the Vietnam War, Jacobs and her family immigrated to Toronto in 1968. Once settled, Jacobs effectively helped to block the construction of the proposed Spadina Expressway. The expressway would have cut through Toronto's Chinatown, Annex and Forest Hill neighbourhoods in the heart of the city.

• In 1969, Jacobs penned The Economy of Cities. She followed this text with A Question of Separatism: Quebec and the Struggle over Sovereignty in 1980 and Wealth of Nations in 1984. In 1992, she published Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics.
• Jane Jacobs passed away on April 25, 2006.







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