• Becoming Jane Jacobs
    Peter L. Laurence
    University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016
    Peter L. Laurence

Bob Gomel/Time Life Pictures, Jane Jacobs in New York, 1963, New York. Copyright Getty Images.

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. While seeking to enrich the histories of modern architecture and American cities associated with her, 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.

Peter L. Laurence is assistant professor and director of graduate studies at Clemson University School of Architecture. He received his master's of architecture from Harvard's Graduate School of Design, and an MS and PhD in architectural history and theory from University of Pennsylvania. Interests in the epistemological foundations 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, and edited collections. His next book project is a Routledge reader's guide to The Death and Life of Great American Cities.