The Woman Who Saved Great American Cities – Yi Zhou’s Eminent Project on Jane Jacobs

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” (Jacobs, 1961, p. 238)


Yi Zhou – October 22, 2021


In the early 19th century, American cities were renowned for and designed for economic or financial factors. Urban landscapes see increasing adoption of expressways and housing towers. Cities built with the same mindset as those used to build machines. Robert Moses, the exemplar for this vision in New York, envisioned the city’s growth only possible by replacing the old neighbourhoods with new expressways and towers. Moses’s vision was not far from reality when combined with his influence in 12 offices. Battling against this idea, was journalist Jane Jacobs who’s envisioned the preservation of the neighbourhoods Moses planned to replace. Jacobs believed in the preservation of the neighbourhoods, and the vibrant culture within. Pursuing this value of preservation, Jane defended these communities and prevented the destruction of 416 buildings which housed around 2,200 families, and hundreds of retail and commercial establishments in SoHo and Little Italy.

Washington State Park, one of the locations Robert Moses scheduled to be transformed into a four-lane expressway.

This fight for her vision will continue to challenge Jacobs as she continues her activism in other parts of North America, such as Toronto. Although she won the debate in New York, she knew she couldn’t defend all cities at once. This led to Jacobs writing her well known book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities which would inspire the landscapes of countless cities for generations to come. This publication became the “planning blueprint for generations of architects, planners, politicians, and activists to practice” (Jane Jacobs and The Center, n.d.). Not only did Jane save the life of great American cities, but she also served as an exemplar of preserving humanity and culture in the face of economic advancements. I believe all professions can learn from her life work, serving as a reminder that we shall not be blinded by the linear pursuit for the future ideals, but also focusing on the process used to get there.

As much as I admire Jane’s bravery in her work, I am not Jane Jacobs, and I don’t aspire to be the next Jane Jacobs. Although Jane was a Urban Planner and Journalist, she has influenced many other professions relating and non-related to urban planning. Jane’s perspectives on how cities should be designed inspired the perspectives of many architects and my perspectives on how individual buildings should be designed. For any individual studying architecture, it is fundamental to understand of how your buildings should impact its surrounding community. Jane’s support in preserving community culture in cities act as a guideline for the values and expressions a building should have on its community. During Jane’s early debates defending this ide, not many people supported it as many favoured the technological advancements of expressways. Could you have imagined how cities, neighbourhoods, and communities would look today if Jane had given up on these visions? Her ability to defend new ideas and influence others with new ideas is an attribute I aspire to and want to apply to my own professions, interests, my TALONS experience, and much more. I don’t believe there are any barriers restricting me from learning and inheriting values from Jane Jacobs, certainly not race or religious beliefs. I hope this project will give me a better understanding of Jane’s philosophies, and the thinking behind her work.

By the next post, I hope to gain a better understanding of her career and how she was able to convince the majority of her new ideas.


Thank you for reading,






Jacobs, J. (1992) The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Random House, Inc.


Gopnic, A. (2016). Jane Jacob’s Street Smarts. The New Yorker.


Bellafante, G. (2017). Learning From Jane Jacobs, Who Saw Today’s City Yesterday.


Paletta, A. (2016). Story of cities #32: Jane Jacobs v Robert Moses, battle of New York’s urban titans. The Guardian.


Overstreet, K. (2021). The Urban Planning Battles that Gave Us Modern Day Cities.


Lewis, J. J. (2019). Jane Jacobs: New Urbanist Who Transformed City Planning. ThoughtCo.


Nelson, L. (2016). Jane Jacobs believed cities should be fun – and changed urban planning forever. Vox.


Jane Jacobs. (2010). Project for Public Spaces.


6 thoughts on “The Woman Who Saved Great American Cities – Yi Zhou’s Eminent Project on Jane Jacobs

  1. I like how you really explained Jane’s eminence very in-depth. I kind of see this as a different kind of connection, where you are more inspired by the person than admire them. I think that if there was a topic sentence that reflected Jane’s eminence rather than skip to the paragraph, it could have been more engaging.

  2. Your entry was phenomenal, and I particularly enjoyed the quote you used to describe Jane Jacobs. I think it was a very accurate representation of Jane Jacobs’ beliefs and personality. The only thing I would recommend is to give a more comprehensive introduction of Jane Jacobs’ in the first section.

  3. I like how you added a link to Jane Jacobs’ book in your paragraph rather than in the end. It made it nice and cohesive. The mention of it also helped contribute to your thorough explanation of her eminence. I also liked how you added more than one photo, so your blog was fairly balanced.
    While they weren’t common, I would recommend to proofread your post next time to avoid misspelled words.

  4. Great work Hanson, your post was very clear and concise and I learned a lot about Jane and American cities. You had a strong quote but like Arik said, it could be helpful to describe who Jane is right away.

  5. Hi Hanson, your blog post was really well put together. I really enjoyed that you included an image of the kind of housing areas she was defending. Explaining what Jane’s beliefs have to do with architecture was a great connection to make. Although it could have helped to add a couple more clear connections you have to her.

  6. Hi Hanson, I liked your use of pictures and links, and you did a good job stating why you chose this person. Personally, I think you could have started more in-depth about who Jane was. Nice work!

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