More than most cities, Toronto owes a huge debt of gratitude to Jane Jacobs. Jacobs, who died yesterday eight days short of her 90th birthday, loved this city almost as much as it loved her. Even if she hadn't moved here from New York in 1968, she would have left this town a different place. But the mere fact of her presence, which the city wore like a badge of honour, ensured that her ideas were always close to the centre of any debate about the future of urbanism in Toronto. Plain-spoken, utterly unpretentious, self-taught and full of sly humour, Jacobs was disarming in the directness of her opinions. She despised jargon and railed against experts, especially planners and politicians, whom she considered the cause of many of the problems that have plagued North American cities since the end of World War II.
How to be a great city
The world may boast a wealth of great cities, but we don't always think of them as such. Even the greatest struggle from time to time. They fret about seemingly insoluble problems and unachievable goals, about history passing them by. The New York of Woody Allen's Annie Hall came at the end of a disastrous decade for Gotham, one filled with urban decay, civic bankruptcy, crime and despair. The sun was shining elsewhere. But the city rallied, with the defiant pride of Manhattan, to become the metropolis we recognize (once again) as one of the planet's urban masterpieces. So what makes cities great? Or rather, what makes Great Cities?
The foremost urban thinker of her time
The Ottawa Citizen
She was an autodidact who never graduated from university, and her contrarian ideas about cities once prompted the eminent historian Lewis Mumford to grumpily dismiss her as a "sloppy novice." But by the time of her death yesterday in Toronto, a week shy of her 90th birthday, Jane Jacobs had been widely acknowledged as the most prescient and original urban thinker of her time. Her ideas have reshaped the way countless people think about cities. Though she is credited with helping to spark the New Urbanism movement, which has hugely influenced planners and architects, she was always something of a prophet without honour among city decision makers, who still recoil from many of her urban prescriptions. "If you ask what's her legacy, in terms of cities, she's not had nearly enough influence," says John Sewell, a friend and former mayor of Toronto, who describes Ms. Jacobs as "the premier thinker about cities of the 20th century. She stands above the Lewis Mumfords of the world, because she was so practical."
'Spiritual guide' for city planners dies
Influential urban critic Jane Jacobs, who had a special relationship with Vancouver, has died at the age of 89. The Toronto-based Jacobs is perhaps best known for her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities in which she warned of the dangers of urban sprawl. She had a lot of good things to say about Vancouver, praising the high-density residential downtown and the fact the area was designed so people could get around on foot. Vancouver's co-director of planning, Larry Beasley, is often credited for his vision of the city. But he said some of that credit goes to Jacobs.
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