Madlener House
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610
Telephone: 312.787.4071


  • Becoming Jane Jacobs
    Peter L. Laurence
    University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014
    Peter Laurence

Cervin Robinson, Jane Jacobs at the White Horse Tavern, 1962, New York, USA. Copyright Cervin Robinson.

Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities is one of the most important books on cities, having influenced generations of architects, planners, and others interested in city life and design. However, little is known about Jacobs's experiences and influences before its publication. Stereotypes present her as a naïve but gifted housewife with a domestically oriented and geographically limited perspective. Becoming Jane Jacobs shows that Death and Life was the result of a twenty-five year writing career that placed her in the midst of contemporary debates and made her one of the most knowledgeable writers on cities already before her great book was published. Becoming Jane Jacobs takes a closer and more critical look at Jacobs's lifework as a whole, examines her important experiences, influences, and writing, including her early support for urban renewal, to explain where Death and Life came from and how Jane Jacobs became Jane Jacobs, while seeking to enrich the histories of modern architecture and American cities associated with her.

Peter L. Laurence is assistant professor and director of graduate studies at Clemson University School of Architecture. He received his MArch from Harvard Graduate School of Design, and MS and PhD in architectural history and theory from University of Pennsylvania. Interests in the epistemological bases of architectural and urban theory have informed more than ten years of research on Jane Jacobs and The Death and Life of Great American Cities. His essays on Jacobs and related histories of architecture and urban design have been published in Journal of Urban Design, Journal of Architectural Education, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Reconsidering Jane Jacobs, and other edited books. In addition to the Graham Foundation, his research has been supported by PennDesign, Clemson University, the Rockefeller Archive Center, and the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation. His next book project is a Routledge reader's guide to Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities.