• Museum at Eldridge Street (map)
  • 12 Eldridge Street
  • New York, NY, 10002
  • United States


Peter Laurence, author of Becoming Jane Jacobs, and Robert Kanigel, author of the upcoming book Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs, will speak on the legacy of writer and preservationist Ms. Jacobs (1916-2006), whose work changed the way the world views and understands cities. Award-winning author and preservationist Roberta Brandes Gratz will introduce Laurence and Kanigel.

This event is co-sponsored by the Tenement Museum. 

Pay what you wish. RSVP requested.


About the Series: A year-long series of commemorative lectures as a birthday present to Jane. Lectures will take place in cities around the world and we invite you to check this site often for lectures near you. All New York lectures will be held at the landmark Eldridge Street Synagogue, known as the Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge Street between Canal and Division.


Peter Laurence is director of graduate studies and associate professor of architectural and urban history, theory, and design at Clemson University School of Architecture. He has been a student of Jane Jacobs's work for many years, with his studies in business/entrepreneurship, architecture, and urban history drawing him to her books on cities, economies, and civilizations. He began his research on Jacobs while a student at Harvard Graduate School of Design and continued it in the PhD Program in Architecture at University of Pennsylvania. His early work changed Jacobs scholarship and contributed to the creation of the Rockefeller Foundation's Jane Jacobs Medals in 2006. While interested in intersections of architectural and urban theory with proto-scientific/scientific thinking since the Renaissance, as well as the histories of modern architecture and urbanism of the 20th century, he continues work on Jacobs and is now writing a reader's guide to The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

More about his work, which has been supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, the Rockefeller Archive Center, and Clemson University College of Architecture, Arts & Humanities, can be found atacademia.edu.



About Becoming Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs is universally recognized as one of the key figures in American urbanism, and The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which she wrote between 1958 and 1961, is considered one of the most important books on cities.Becoming Jane Jacobs is an intellectual biography focusing on Jacobs's early life and writing career leading up to her great book, and it offers a new foundation for understanding not only Death and Life but her subsequent books on cities, economies, and civilizations.

As the legend goes, Jacobs, a housewife, single-handedly took on Robert Moses, New York City's powerful master builder, and other city planners who sought first to level her Greenwich Village neighborhood and then to drive a highway through it. Jacobs's most effective weapons in these David-versus-Goliath battles, and in writing her book, were her powers of observation and common sense. Becoming Jane Jacobs shows that what is missing from such discussions and myths about Jacobs is a critical examination of how she arrived at her ideas about city life. The book shows that although Jacobs had only a high school diploma, in the 1930s and 40s, she pursued a writing career that well prepared her to become an architectural critic just as postwar urban renewal policies came into effect. In the 1950s, atArchitectural Forum, Jacobs was then immersed in an elite intellectual community of architects and urbanists that included editor Douglas Haskell, shopping mall designer Victor Gruen, housing advocate Catherine Bauer, architect Louis Kahn, Philadelphia city planner Edmund Bacon, urban historian Lewis Mumford, urban theorist Kevin Lynch, and the British writers at The Architectural Review. Through her work at Forum and these associations, Jacobs's knowledge of and writing on suburban development and urban redevelopment grew and evolved; and she contributed significantly to the changing fields of architectural criticism and urban design, participated in important academic conferences, and became known as an expert writer on cities even before she started writing Death and Life.  

With a consideration of Jacobs's writing career in its historical context, and through the analysis of many unknown writings, Laurence asserts that Death and Life was not the spontaneous epiphany of an amateur activist but the product of a professional writer and experienced architectural critic with deep knowledge about the renewal and dynamics of American cities.

photo by Michael Lionstar

photo by Michael Lionstar


I write books, sometimes on quirky topics, like leather and its inspired imitators; that was the subject of my book FAUX REAL, which came out in paperback in 2010. 

ON AN IRISH ISLAND, published in 2012, took me to a windswept island village off the coast of Ireland, the setting for a story of love and friendship, literature and language, in the early years of the twentieth century. It came out in a Vintage paperback edition in February 2013, this time with a subtitle: The Lost World of the Great Blasket.

I've also written books about the French Riviera; the Indian mathematician Ramanujan; Frederick Winslow Taylor, the first efficiency expert; and about mentor relationships among elite scientists. 

Before I started writing books in the mid-1980s, I wrote magazine articles, essays, and reviews, hundreds of them. But once I started with books I couldn't get enough of them -- big, meaty projects that took me into new intellectual, geographic, and human worlds and demanded my best energies for the three or four years it took to research and write them. 

After twelve years as a professor at MIT, I returned in 2011 to Baltimore where I've spent most of my adult life and where I'm back to writing full-time. I've now finished my biography of Jane Jacobs, the author and urban visionary. It's entitled EYES ON THE STREET: The Life of Jane Jacobs and will be published by Knopf in the fall of 2016.



About Eyes on the Street

Eyes on the Street is a revelation of the phenomenal woman who raised three children, wrote seven groundbreaking books, saved neighborhoods, stopped expressways, was arrested twice, and engaged at home and on the streets in thousands of debates--all of which she won. Here is the child who challenged her third-grade teacher; the high school poet; the journalist who honed her writing skills at Iron Age, Architectural Forum, Fortune, and other outlets, while amassing the knowledge she would draw upon to write her most famous book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Here, too, is the activist who helped lead an ultimately successful protest against Robert Moses's proposed expressway through her beloved Greenwich Village; and who, in order to keep her sons out of the Vietnam War, moved to Canada, where she became as well known and admired as she was in the United States.