Peter L. Laurence Becoming Jane Jacobs

ISBN 13: 9780812247886

Becoming Jane Jacobs

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9780812247886: Becoming Jane Jacobs

The result of years of groundbreaking research, Becoming Jane Jacobs is the first intellectual biography to focus on Jacobs's early life and writing career leading up to her great book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Through an analysis of Jacobs's life and work, including many of her previously unknown writings and other original discoveries, Becoming Jane Jacobs offers a new foundation for understanding not only Death and Life, but her subsequent books on cities, economies, and civilizations.

Jane Jacobs is universally recognized as one of the most important figures in American urbanism, and The Death and Life of Great American Cities one of the most important books on cities. However, because of her David-versus-Goliath battles with "Power Broker" Robert Moses and the urban-renewal establishment, Jacobs has received more attention for being an activist than a thinker, despite having written a list of influential books on cities, economies, and other subjects. Her intellectual skills have often been reduced to unusually keen powers of observation and common sense.
With Becoming Jane Jacobs, Dr. Peter L. Laurence shows that what is missing from the stereotypes and myths is a critical examination of how Jacobs arrived at her ideas about city life. The book shows that although Jacobs had only a high school diploma, she pursued a writing career that prepared her to become a nationally recognized architectural critic just as postwar urban renewal policies came into effect. After starting her writing career in the 1930s, and developing it as a writer and propagandist for the US government in the 1940s, Jacobs was immersed in an elite community of architects, city planners, and academics as an editor of the Time Inc. magazine Architectural Forum. The 1950s, a critical decade for US cities, was the time when Americans were deciding between living in new suburbs or rebuilding and modernizing old cities. Laurence reveals that when faced with this choice, Jacobs not only sided with urban renewal, but idealized the field of city planning-- before soon coming to see the problems with outdated and anti-urban concepts and methods for improving cities. Laurence traces the evolution of Jacobs's thinking--through her visits and studies of redevelopment in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, Washington DC, Fort Worth, and East Harlem, among other places, and close interactions with notables including editor Douglas Haskell, shopping mall designer Victor Gruen, housing advocate Catherine Bauer, architect Louis Kahn, Philadelphia city planner Edmund Bacon, urban historian Lewis Mumford, urban theorist Kevin Lynch, and collaborators at the British magazine The Architectural Review. Challenging the stereotyped limits of Jacobs's geography and outsider status, Laurence shows that Jacobs contributed significantly to architectural criticism and urban design, participated in important academic conferences, and became known as an expert writer on cities even before she started writing Death and Life
The product of many years of groundbreaking research, Becoming Jane Jacobs shows that The Death and Life of Great American Cities could only have been written by Jane Jacobs. Through analysis of many of previously unknown writings, identified and discussed here for the first time--including Jacobs's government employment records, FBI files, work memoranda, and correspondence with notable acquaintances and confidants--and through an understanding of her ideas in their historical context, Laurence asserts that Death and Life was not the spontaneous epiphany of an amateur activist but the product of a professional writer and experienced architectural critic with deep knowledge about the renewal and dynamics of American cities. But at the same time, by showing how Jacobs's ideas evolved, Laurence suggests ways that we can become more like Jacobs ourselves, and continue to develop our understanding of better cities. 

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Review:

"In this superbly researched and wonderfully original book, Peter L. Laurence for the first time reveals the depth and complexity of Jacobs's self-education. As a writer, activist, and archetypal New Yorker, Jacobs put herself at the center of a debate on modernism that was also a profound struggle over the future of the American city. This book is both a worthy tribute to Jacobs's genius and a brilliant exposition of the broader context of designs and ideas that made her work possible." --Robert Fishman, Taubman College of Architecture and Planning, University of Michigan

"Much has been written about Jane Jacobs over the years--from her audacious challenge to top-down urban planning approaches to her successes as a neighborhood activist in New York and later Toronto--but Peter Laurence is the first to account fully for the originality of her thinking and to provide a complex picture of her intellectual formation against the backdrop of urban America in the post-World War II decades. Deeply researched and richly illuminating, Laurence's book will fundamentally change the way we think about Jacobs today." --Joan Ockman, Columbia University

"Peter Laurence peers behind Jane Jacobs's distinctive glasses to reveal a keen investigator, a synthesizing intellect, a poetic writer, and an unwavering conscience. Becoming Jane Jacobs adds immeasurably to our understanding of her rich, formative years in New York City, leading up to the publication of The Death and Life of Great American Cities." --Robert Wojtowicz, Old Dominion University

"In the last decade, a solid interdisciplinary field of 'Jacobsean' studies has developed, and many books and edited collections have been published, discussing Jacobs's life and work. One superb new addition to these studies is architect and architectural historian Peter L. Laurence's just-published Becoming Jane Jacobs, which provides a careful, eye-opening reconstruction of the events, experiences, and influences in Jacob's personal and professional life that led to her writing Death and Life." --David Seamon, Kansas State University

"Brilliant" --Catherine Corman, The National Book Review

"As Peter Laurence recounts in his masterful new book, Becoming Jane Jacobs, Jacobs was actually among the leading voices on urban America prior to the 1961 publication of her landmark book. Laurence's book is an enormous contribution both to our understanding of Jacobs and more importantly to the 1950's era that shaped both Jacobs' perceptions and the future of urban and suburban America... Laurence has created an almost indispensable companion to The Death and Life of Great American Cities... Becoming Jane Jacobs is ideal for book groups addressing urban themes, and should become a staple of college urban studies classes. If you relish the memories of the excitement you felt upon originally reading Jacobs' master work, Becoming Jane Jacobs will return you to those days." --Randy Shaw, author of The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century; Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UWF, and the Struggle for Justice; and The Tenderloin.

"Laurence writes lucidly, and the breadth of research supporting this book is impressive... The book is particularly relevant for urban scholars to ground academic interpretations of Jane Jacobs's writing, but the narrative and depth of this research have produced an equally valuable read for those interested in cities, urban politics and planning." --Jenny McArthur, London School of Economics Review of Books

"A close, vivid study of Jane Jacobs's intellectual development." --Nathaniel Rich, The Atlantic

Becoming Jane Jacobs is "definitely one of the best books of the year. This is the biography of Jacobs I have wanted to read for forty years." --Tyler Cowen, author of The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream and founder of MarginalRevolution.com

"Laurence connects the dots for the reader, showing Jacobs meeting the people, reporting on the developments, and 'rehearsing passages' that will later appear in the volume. If a book can be said to have a biographer, Peter Laurence is the Boswell of The Death and Life of Great American Cities... Jacobs and her ideas were at least as influential in shaping urban America as the most powerful men in wingtips. Becoming Jane Jacobs provides a crucial rebalancing of the public record." --Renee Loth, editor ArchitectureBoston magazine

About the Author:

Dr. Peter L. Laurence has been writing about Jane Jacobs for twenty years. His groundbreaking research on her life and ideas has been published in Journal of Architectural EducationJournal of the Society of Architectural HistoriansJournal of Urban DesignA Critical History of Contemporary ArchitectureAlternative Visions of Post-War ReconstructionThe Penn Resolution: Educating Urban Designers for Post-Carbon Cities, and Reconsidering Jane Jacobs. Laurence is the Robert Mills Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Architecture at Clemson University School of Architecture. He trained as an architect at Harvard, where he wrote his master's thesis on Jane Jacobs, and as an architectural and urban historian at University of Pennsylvania, where this became his dissertation, the first draft of Becoming Jane Jacobs. Learn more at becomingjanejacobs.com

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Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, United States, 2016. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Jane Jacobs is universally recognized as one of the key figures in American urbanism. The author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, she uncovered the complex and intertwined physical and social fabric of the city and excoriated the urban renewal policies of the 1950s. As the legend goes, Jacobs, a housewife, single-handedly stood up to Robert Moses, New York City s powerful master builder, and other city planners who sought first to level her Greenwich Village neighborhood and then to drive a highway through it. Jacobs s most effective weapons in these David-versus-Goliath battles, and in writing her book, were her powers of observation and common sense. What is missing from such discussions and other myths about Jacobs, according to Peter L. Laurence, is a critical examination of how she arrived at her ideas about city life. Laurence shows that although Jacobs had only a high school diploma, she was nevertheless immersed in an elite intellectual community of architects and urbanists. Becoming Jane Jacobs is an intellectual biography that chronicles Jacobs s development, influences, and writing career, and provides a new foundation for understanding Death and Life and her subsequent books. Laurence explains how Jacobs s ideas developed over many decades and how she was influenced by members of the traditions she was critiquing, including Architectural Forum editor Douglas Haskell, shopping mall designer Victor Gruen, housing advocate Catherine Bauer, architect Louis Kahn, Philadelphia city planner Edmund Bacon, urban historian Lewis Mumford, and the British writers at The Architectural Review. Rather than discount the power of Jacobs s critique or contributions, Laurence asserts that Death and Life was not the spontaneous epiphany of an amateur activist but the product of a professional writer and experienced architectural critic with deep knowledge about the renewal and dynamics of American cities. Bookseller Inventory # AAJ9780812247886

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Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, United States, 2016. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Jane Jacobs is universally recognized as one of the key figures in American urbanism. The author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, she uncovered the complex and intertwined physical and social fabric of the city and excoriated the urban renewal policies of the 1950s. As the legend goes, Jacobs, a housewife, single-handedly stood up to Robert Moses, New York City s powerful master builder, and other city planners who sought first to level her Greenwich Village neighborhood and then to drive a highway through it. Jacobs s most effective weapons in these David-versus-Goliath battles, and in writing her book, were her powers of observation and common sense. What is missing from such discussions and other myths about Jacobs, according to Peter L. Laurence, is a critical examination of how she arrived at her ideas about city life. Laurence shows that although Jacobs had only a high school diploma, she was nevertheless immersed in an elite intellectual community of architects and urbanists. Becoming Jane Jacobs is an intellectual biography that chronicles Jacobs s development, influences, and writing career, and provides a new foundation for understanding Death and Life and her subsequent books. Laurence explains how Jacobs s ideas developed over many decades and how she was influenced by members of the traditions she was critiquing, including Architectural Forum editor Douglas Haskell, shopping mall designer Victor Gruen, housing advocate Catherine Bauer, architect Louis Kahn, Philadelphia city planner Edmund Bacon, urban historian Lewis Mumford, and the British writers at The Architectural Review. Rather than discount the power of Jacobs s critique or contributions, Laurence asserts that Death and Life was not the spontaneous epiphany of an amateur activist but the product of a professional writer and experienced architectural critic with deep knowledge about the renewal and dynamics of American cities. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780812247886

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