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‘A jumping, joyous urban jumble’: Jane Jacobs’s Death and Life of Great American Cities as a phenomenology of urban place

David Seamon


In this forum report, I contend that Jane Jacobs’s Death and Life of Great American Cities can be interpreted as a phenomenology of the city and urban place (Jacobs, 1961/1993). I consider four aspects of the book as they relate to a phenomenological approach: (1) Jacobs’s mode of seeing and understanding as phenomenological method; (2) her claim that ‘citiness’ is a phenomenon in its own right and has the power to draw and hold people to particular urban places; (3) her portrait of urban experience and place as they are founded in environmental embodiment; and (4) her pointing toward a constellation of place relationships and processes that potentially strengthen or weaken urban robustness. I argue that much of Jacobs’s argument has parallels with the findings of space syntax research, including themes highlighted by Julienne Hanson in her 2000 article, ‘Urban Transformations’ (Hanson, 2000).


Jane Jacobs, Julienne Hanson, phenomenology of city, place, urban place, place ballet, urban diversity, place making in the city, environmental embodiment, space syntax

Full Text: JOSS_2012_1_FORUM2