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Urban-design firebrand Jane Jacobs dies, aged 89

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The influential American writer and thinker Jane Jacobs, who famously challenged the brutal approach to urban planning in the early 1960s, has died in Toronto, aged 89.

Her groundbreaking 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Citiesput forward revolutionary new principles for rebuilding towns based on neighbourhood regeneration.

A long-term New York resident - she lived there until 1969 with her architect husband - Jacobs launched a legendary attack on the city's urban-renewal chief Robert Moses to stop a six-lane expressway being built through Lower Manhattan.

Arrested during a demonstration in 1968, Jacobs eventually won the argument over the expressway and went on to secure similar victories in Canada.

Jacobs was born in 1916 in the coal-mining town of Scranton, Pennsylvania and studied geology, zoology, law and economics before working for a trade magazine. She went on to write for the Office of War Information bureau and penned a number of books - the last, Dark Age Ahead, was published in 2004.

Recently described as 'a woman who wore comfortable shoes while dishing out uncomfortable truths', Jacobs continued to tackle important urban and social issues well into her 80s.

A full obituary, written by the Urban Design Group director Robert Cowan, will appear in next week's AJ (04.05.06).

Jacobs won an honorary fellowship of the RIBA in 2003.

by Richard Waite

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