October 11, 2016
No one did more to change how we look at cities than Jane Jacobs, the visionary urbanist and economic thinker whose 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities started a global conversation that remains profoundly relevant more than half a century later.
Vital Little Plans is an essential companion to Death and Life and Jacobs’s other books on urbanism, economics, politics, and ethics. It offers readers a unique survey of her entire career in forty short pieces that have never been collected in a single volume, from charming and incisive urban vignettes from the 1930s to the raw materials of her two unfinished books of the 2000s, together with introductions and annotations by editors Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring. Readers will find classics here, including Jacobs’s breakout article “”Downtown Is for the People,” as well as lesser-known gems like her speech at the inaugural Earth Day and a host of other rare or previously unavailable essays, articles, speeches, interviews, and lectures. some pieces shed light on the development of her most famous insights, while others explore topics rarely dissected in her major works, from globalization to feminism to universal healthcare.
With this book, published in Jacobs’s Centenary year, contemporary readers – whether well-versed in her ideas are new to her writing – are finally able to appreciate the full scope of her remarkable voice and vision. At a time when urban life is booming and people all over the world are moving to cities, the words of Jane Jacobs have never been more significant. Vital Little Plans weaves a lifetime of ideas from the most prominent urbanist of the twentieth century into a book that’s indispensable to life in the twenty-first.
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was a writer who for more than forty years championed innovative, community-based approaches to urban planning. Her 1961 treatise The Death and Life of Great American Cities became perhaps the most influential text about the inner workings and failings of cities, inspiring generations of planners and activists.
Samuel Zipp is a writer and historian. He is the author of the award-winning Manhattan Projects: The Rise and Fall of Urban Renewal in Cold War New York, which tells the larger history of the battles over urban renewal that propelled Jane Jacobs to national fame. He has written articles and reviews on urbanism and culture for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Nation. He is currently associate professor of American studies and urban studies at Brown University.
Nathan Storring is a writer, curator, and designer who specializes in making contemporary urban design, planning, and policy accessible to the general public. He has served as acting curator of Urbanspace Gallery in Toronto (founded by colleagues of Jane Jacobs) and worked on permanent exhibits at the Chicago Architecture Foundation and the Boston Society of Architects. He has written for various outlets, including Canadian Architect, Next City, and the Metropolitan Revolution blog, and is a regular contributor to the Project for Public Spaces blog.