Day 46 of #100dayproject: Jane Jacobs’s Prophecies.

In 1961 Jane Jacobs, with her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities[1], warning us about the consequences of the uncontrolled expansion of cities and the industrialization of building construction. At the same time she criticized the domination of the cars over the public space. She predicted the death of the American cities[2].

As usually occurs only a few group of professionals and urban planners follows their predictions. The rest of Urbanists and architects continued with the efforts of making the life for cars more easily. In no one part of the formation of this professionals exists an element dedicate to the necessities of the human scale development[3].

Cities are, in spite of their complexity, comprehensible systems, no less than human bodies are: as Jane Jacobs argued, useful observations can be made about their features, much as diagnoses can be made by doctors about the human body, applying the insights provided by medical science[4]. In a similar way, we can use the insights of a science of cities to judge the outcomes and needed changes in current best practices[5]:

“In turn this interaction seems to be key to the creativity and productivity of cities.

We have seen the results in great cities like New York, which routinely perform the remarkable feat of taking in many thousands of penniless immigrants, and somehow producing solidly middle class business owners or professionals[6].”

 In the United States, place has agency, as Jim Russell said: Where you live is who you are. Romanticizing relocation catalyzes geographic mobility. Catalyzing geographic mobility juices innovation and productivity[7].

Legions of consultants have been advising regions to build science parks next to research universities and to offer financial incentives to selected industries to locate there, touting Harvard professor Michael Porter’s cluster theory[8]. Porter had observed that geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, and service providers gave certain industries a productivity and cost advantage. His followers postulated that by bringing these ingredients together into a “cluster,” regions could artificially foment innovation[9].

They couldn’t. The formula doesn’t work. The top-down industry cluster is a modern-day snake oil. Chile proved that it is people, not industry, who had the power innovation[10]. Tens of billions of dollars have collectively been invested by hundreds of regions all over the world in top-down cluster-development efforts.


[2] Marcus Hurst: El arquitecto de las personas. 17 Abril, 2011. Yorokobu. Available at :

[3] Max-neef, M., Elizalde, A., & Martin, H. (2010). Desarrollo a escala humana. Opciones para el futuro. (Biblioteca CF+S, Ed.) (p. 56). Madrid: Biblioteca CF+S. Retrieved from

[4] Jacobs, Jane [1961] (2001): The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Vintage Books.

[5] Jim Russell: The Pseudoscience of Jane Jacobs and Innovation Districts. July 02, 2014. Pacific Standard. Available at




[9] Russell, Op. Cite



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