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Is new work really built from old work? And if so, what does this mean for the spatial organisation of economic activities in cities? (Proceedings of the Conference Jane Jacobs 100: her legacy and relevance in the 21st century ed. TU Delft)
Jane Jacobs developed a theory of the ‘self-generating economic culture of cities’ (Soja, 2000) with new work being built from old work, through dynamic economic branching. She saw local economic development as an emergent process, charac- terised by organised complexity, as opposed to be something that could be developed top-down through a strategic planning vision. Jacobs has directly influenced a long-standing debate in human capital economics on the relative importance of cross-sector and same-sector knowledge sharing to bottom-up innovation. However, Jacob’s vision of emergent job creation is more complex than this, with her ideas perhaps best being reflected in the discipline of evolutionary economic geography, with its multiple influences from thinkers such as Darwin and Schumpeter, and the complexity theorists. Jacobs’ ideas were strongly spatial, and she saw the physical properties of buildings and streets in cities as both enabling and constraining the emergence of new work from old. However she did less to theorise the broader spatial morphology of self-generating city economies. The paper concludes by asking whether more recent architectural theories, such as space syntax, can enhance our understanding of the physical embeddedness of new work creation.