Essay on 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities' Summary

This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.

Cite this essay cite-image

Issues in urban planning according to Jacobs

Jane Jacobs, in her book The death and Life of great American Cities, was keen on learning the Planning principles what restoration practices will foster social and economic development in cities, and what policies and values will diminish those qualities. In this context, she was unhappy about issues such as What kinds of city streets are secure and what kinds are not; why some city parks are excellent, and others vice traps and death traps; why some slums remain slums and other slums regenerate even despite financial and official opposition; what makes towns and cities relocate their centers. Moreover, suggests that the policies and aims which shape modern, orthodox city planning should change.

She was also unhappy about the way we would have used the wistful amount of money we had (usually a hundred billion dollars) in building low-income projects that became a small criminal hub, Vandalism, and urban hopelessness generalized than the slums they meant to replace. Projects of middle-income accommodation are simply marvels of dullness and regimentation, locked against any city life buoyancy or vitality. Luxury housing developments that minimize or aim to reduce their inanity with vapid vulgarity walk that go from nowhere to nowhere and have no pedestrians. Expressways which evoke great cities. Instead of wiping out the slums and solving traffic problems (Jacobs 2016).

Save your time!
We can take care of your essay
  • Proper editing and formatting
  • Free revision, title page, and bibliography
  • Flexible prices and money-back guarantee
Place an order

Why is the Morningside planning community disintegrated?

Jacobs understands that the cities are the immense laboratories for trial and error, failure, and success in urban planning and urban design. All the policies and theories have to be tested, and the success and failure of these theories should not be ignored over the appearance of towns and suburbs. Coming to Morningside, it was assumed not to fail in the real world with the profound planning theory it had. Initially, it is one of the best examples of successful planning theory with much greenery, an abundance of parklands, educational institutions, playgrounds, and an extraordinary riverfront. It does not have an industry. Its streets are zoned in the main against “incompatible uses” of solidly built, spacious, middle & upper-class apartments intruding into the preserves.

Moreover, by the early 1950s Morningside Heights was so quickly becoming a slum, the surly kind of slum where people were afraid to walk the streets, that the situation presented a problem for the institutions. Moreover, the planning arm of the city government applying more planning theory built a middle-income cooperative project that includes a shopping center and public housing completely obstructing the sunlight and natural air which demonstrated the city's savings. She outlines this to be the misconception between the qualities, necessities, and advantages of great cities to that of the more inert type of settlements (Jacobs 2016).

“Cities are much more intricate economic and social concerns than automobile traffic.”

Jacobs strongly believes that the right amount of money from the government has been invested in achieving this level of monotony, vulgarity, and sterility in terms of urban planning. Furthermore, this is mainly supported by all experts convincing the public and legislators that these developments until accompanied by a strip of grassland are always beneficial. On the other hand, for any failure in urban planning practice, the transportation system is blamed in the first place. However, always the destructive effect of automobiles is much less cause than mere symptoms of our incompetence at city planning. In this context, she believes that the needs of cities are much more complex when compared to that of automobiles.

In contrast to this, many planners and designers of the present-day focus more on traffic problems believing solving traffic congestion would solve all other problems. Very few people genuinely care about building and renewing despite some corruption and greed for other men's wine yards. Significant pain in learning the theories and principles that saints and sages have said about what works for the city is shattered when the contradictory reality intrudes. However, Jacobs presumes that more importance is given to automobile traffic than the social and economic aspects of the city (Jacobs 2016).

Transitions in North End, Boston

The North End in Boston is a conservative district with a very low-rent area merging into heavy industry. North End in Boston considered being a slum with all the evil attributes that a city can have. It has the highest concentration of dwelling units than in any other American city. The recurring assignment for Harvard and MIT students to turn this orthodox district into superblocks and park promenades wiping away its nonconforming uses always ends up as a paper exercise. A couple of decades earlier, buildings of different sizes were demolished and four-story tenements were built to house immigrants from Ireland and European countries. In the late 1950s, lots of buildings were rehabilitated. A large number of the dwellings were converted into single dwelling units. There were no signs of the old squalid North End; more perfectly repointed brickwork and new blinds. None of the parking lots is amputated and is painted beautifully as intended.

In contrast to this, the Boston planner considers this to be a slum with 275 dwellings per net acre. Nevertheless, she also admits that it has the lowest death rate. And TB death rate is less than one in ten thousand. Furthermore, it has the lowest delinquency, disease, and infant mortality. On the other hand, the Boston savings banker confronts that the money for development has not come from mortgages but from the revenue generated by local businesses and residents (Jacobs 2016).

Four conditions by Jacobs for better cities

Jacobs strongly believes that the four conditions suggested by her are to be deliberately implemented in generating city diversity and vitality.

    • Condition 1: Need for mixed primary use.

The district needs to serve more than one primary function, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible; preferably more than two. We must maintain the participation of individuals who go outside on several days and are on the spot for various activities, but who can use several services together.

    • Condition 2: The need for small blocks.

Most blocks have to be short; that is, there have to be regular streets and chances to turn corners.

    • Condition 3: The need for old buildings.

The district has to mix buildings, including the right proportion of old ones, that vary in age and condition.

    • Condition 4: The need for concentration.

The district must have a reasonably concentrated population distribution, for whatever reason they might be in it.


    1. JACOBS, J. 2016. The death and life of great American cities, Vintage.
Make sure you submit a unique essay

Our writers will provide you with an essay sample written from scratch: any topic, any deadline, any instructions.

Cite this paper

Essay on ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ Summary. (2024, February 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from
“Essay on ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ Summary.” Edubirdie, 28 Feb. 2024,
Essay on ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ Summary. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jun. 2024].
Essay on ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ Summary [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2024 Feb 28 [cited 2024 Jun 22]. Available from:

Join our 150k of happy users

  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
Place an order

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via

Check it out!
search Stuck on your essay?

We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.