07_02_janejacobscover.jpgThe Rockefeller Foundation, which played a role in funding Jane Jacobs's pioneering research and writing 50 years ago, will now support her legacy by issuing two annual award grants in her honor. According to the NY Sun, one recipient will have made a lifetime contribution to urban design or theory, specifically in New York City, and the other will be on the cusp of a promising career. Each award is worth $200,000.

The prize appears extremely generous. But foundations like the Rockefellers' view such award programs as strategic investments. The foundation's website cites a recent article by David Wessel in the Wall Street Journal examining the efficiency of so-called "prize philanthropy". "Prizes prompt a lot of effort, far more than any sponsor could devote itself, but they generally pay only for success. That's 'an important piece of shifting risk from inside the walls of the company and moving it out to the solver community,' says Jill Panetta, [Rockefeller Foundation partner] InnoCentive's chief scientific officer." We wonder what kinds of fresh urban thought the new Jacobs medal might inspire? Jacobs herself benefitted from an initial $10,000 Rockefeller grant in 1958 to commence the work that launched her into the spotlight, The Death and Life of Great American Cities .

Notes the Sun, "It is both coincidental and appropriate that Jacobs should be honored with an award in her name and an exhibit [opening at the Municipal Art Society in fall 2007], just when her longtime nemesis, Robert Moses, is having something of a rehabilitation... with a three-part exhibit devoted to his influence now open around town." The Rockefeller Foundation's president, Judith Rodin, said that the award represents an effort to reinvigorate public enthusiasm for urban design and thought at a time when architectural design has surged far ahead in prestige and cultural visibility.