Jacobs rose to prominence in 1961 when her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, was published. It, in the author's own words, explained how “cities function in real life”; she contrasted the urban planning utopias of the 20th century (in particular, the concepts of Le Corbusier's "Radiant City" and E. Howard's "Garden City") naturally developing, "sloppy", densely built up and populated quarters of old Brooklyn, where the writer herself lived for a long time.
In her opinion, large-scale plans for the development of large cities, implying the emergence of green suburbs, as opposed to the center used only for work, the wide demolition of old traditional buildings under the pretext of its "dilapidation", the use of zoning principles to separate shopping, residential and business areas is the path to the death of the metropolis as such.
In her book, Jacobs proposed the following principles for the development (salvation) of a city: a combination of buildings of different functions (residential, retail, office …), a small length of blocks, the coexistence of buildings of different ages, conditions, purpose and rental costs, high population density.
Despite the lack of not only professional, but generally higher education, Jacobs gained, thanks to her revolutionary book and active participation in public protests against large-scale urban development projects that destroyed the historical fabric of the city, great authority in architectural circles. Its postulates, in turn, became the rules: in most modern projects of large areas of development, the first tier with shops and cafes is now always provided for "designed for pedestrians", and office complexes can include residential towers, art galleries and concert halls.
The idea of small neighborhoods was even reflected in the project for the reconstruction of the WTC in New York: the only aspect with which all interested parties agree is the restoration of the old grid of streets on its territory, which was destroyed in due time during the construction of the Twin Towers.
After the famous Death and Life, Jacobs turned to economic and geopolitical issues and wrote several more successful books. Her last work, published in 2004, was Dark age ahead, in which she predicted the decline and destruction of the entire North American civilization and suggested ways of possible salvation.