Testing the Timeless Principles of Jane Jacobs

By Mark Sheppard

The massive upsurge of readily-available data on cities has begun to spawn a plethora of urban analyses, bringing the notion of evidence-based urban design and planning to life.

Image source: MIT Technology Review



A data scientist from the University of Trento (Marco de Nadai) and colleagues have used OpenStreetMap, census data, satellite image-based land use data, Foursquare and mobile phone records to test the key ideas promoted in Jane Jacob’s seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities - namely, that urban vitality is generated by mixed use, small blocks, diverse building ages and density (see https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601107/data-mining-reveals-the-four-urban-conditions-that-create-vibrant-city-life/#/set/id/601103/).

Their findings: that Jacobs was right, at least for the six Italian cities studied.

What other opportunities are there to improve urban design and planning through empirical evidence?

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