by Saskia Sassen – March 29, 2017
The Times Literary Supplement
Jane Jacobs is a major figure in urbanism. Her books are milestones of the discipline. As she lived her long life she never stopped expanding her research and honing her analysis of how cities work, notably embracing debates about the environment when they were still only emergent. Jacobs is generally considered a visionary and – by those who knew her from the barricades – a fighter, obstinate in her defence of cities from the onslaught of a legion of developers. Her duels in the mid-twentieth century with New York City’s master planner, Robert Moses, are the stuff of urban legend. One of Moses’s projects was to build a four-lane highway through a good stretch of Lower Manhattan – a rational project for someone concerned with enabling traffic flows, but a crime for someone concerned with preserving well-functioning neighbourhoods.
Two recent books take very different approaches to Jacobs’s work…