Operationalizing Jane Jacobs’s Urban Design Theory

Hyungun Sung, SangHyun Cheon & Sugie Lee

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Sung, H. , Cheon, S. & Lee, S. (1). Operationalizing Jane Jacobs’s Urban Design Theory. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 35(2), 117–130. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0739456X14568021

Built Environment , Jane Jacobs , Urban Design , Urban Diversity

Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) had an enormous influence on urban design theories and practices. This study aims to operationalize Jacobs's conditions for a vital urban life. These are (1) mixed use, (2) small blocks, (3) aged buildings, and (4) a sufficient concentration of buildings. Jacobs suggested that a vital urban life could be sustained by an urban realm that promotes pedestrian activity for various purposes at various times. Employing multilevel binomial models, we empirically verified that Jacobs's conditions for urban diversity play a significant role with regard to pedestrian activity.

Main finding
The results from the Seoul case study indicate that the choice of walking over driving is positively influenced by diversity of housing types at the neighborhood level, proximity to public facilities such as rail stations and parks, a shorter distance from a building to a street corner, the presence of aged buildings, higher employment density when population density is held constant, and high density of special-use buildings compared to overall building density. However the choice of walking over driving is negatively influenced by borders such as arterial roads, large-scale parks, on-ground railway tracks, and large-scale building developments. The time of the day also influences the choice of walking over driving.

Description of method used in the article
This paper operationalized Jacobs’s urban diversity variables (mixed land use, block size and contact opportunities, aged buildings and small enterprises, density and concentration, and border vacuums) using built environment data for the city of Seoul as a case study. Multilevel binomial logistic model, also known as a random-effects logistic model, was used to evaluate the relationship between walking and operationalized built environmental measures for Jacobs’s urban diversity.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Urban Planning
Physical types
Parks/Gardens Streets
Geographic locations