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Jane Jacobs Forum 2013: Women as City Builders

Author and activist Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) believed in the future of cities and in common sense solutions to urban challenges. This year, in conjunction with the presentation of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal, the Municipal Art Society’s annual Jane Jacobs Forum features leading women in the fields of architecture and planning, landscape architecture, development, community development, business and the arts. Click here for event details.


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Laura Flanders — GRITtv

Best-selling author and broadcaster, Laura Flanders is the Strong Local Economies Fellow at Yes! Magazine and a contributing writer to The Nation. She hosts “The Laura Flanders Show” on GRITtv, an online video platform she founded in 2008. Flanders is the author of the New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species (Verso, 2004) and Blue GRIT: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians (Penguin Press, 2007) as well as the editor of several books including At the Tea Party… and The W. Effect. A regular guest on MSNBC, Flanders has also appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, The Tavis Smiley Show and The O’Reilly Factor and served as a substitute host for PBS veteran, Bill Moyers. She is a public speaker and media trainer. For more information, go to or and follow her on Twitter @GRITlaura.


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Deborah Cullinan — Executive Director, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Deborah Cullinan is the newly named Executive Director of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts – San Francisco’s premiere contemporary art center. She is the outgoing Executive Director of Intersection for the Arts. Under her leadership, Intersection achieved a strong reputation as a powerful arts-focused community development organization committed to radical partnership across sectors to achieve equitable community change. Intersection is playing a lead role on the 5M Project, a 4-acre prototype for the next generation of urban development that embraces diversity of thought, life experience, and culture. Under her leadership, Intersection received numerous awards including an Inaugural ArtPlace America Award, The Cyril Magnum Award for Non-Profit Excellence, and the 2012 Philanthropedia Award for Highest Impact Arts Non-Profit in the Bay Area. She has presented at the NEA, SF Planning & Urban Research Center, Center for the Theater Commons, GrantMakers in the Arts and more. She is co-founder of ArtsForumSF; a member of the Board of the California Arts Advocates, Californians for the Arts, and The Community Arts Stabilization Trust. She is on the advisory boards of The Center for the Theater Commons and The Catalyst Initiative. She received the 2013 Visionary Leadership Award in Honor of Margo Jones from Theater Communications Group. She is a Rockwood Fellow; a Gerbode Fellow; and a participant in National Arts Strategies’ Chief Executive Program an initiative gathering 100 top culture sector leaders to re-imagine what cultural institutions are and how they contribute to society.

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Peggy Deamer — Assistant Dean, Yale School of Architecture

Peggy Deamer is Assistant Dean and Professor of Architecture at Yale University. She is a principal in the firm of Deamer, Architects. She received a B.Arch. from The Cooper Union and a Ph.D. from Princeton University. She is the editor of Architecture and Capitalism: 1845 to the Present (Routledge), The Millennium House (Monacelli Press), and co-editor of Building in the Future: Recasting Architectural Labor (MIT Press) and BIM in Academia (Yale School of Architecture) with Phil Bernstein. Recent articles include “The Changing Nature of Architectural Work,” in Design Practices Now Vol II, The Harvard Design Magazine no. 33; “Detail Deliberation,” in Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture; “Practicing Practice,” in Perspecta 44; and “Design and Contemporary Practice” in Architecture from the Outside, Dana Cuff, John Wriedt, eds. Her research examines the nature of architectural work/labor. She is the organizing member of the advocacy group, The Architecture Lobby.

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Gayle Farris — Principal, GB Farris Strategies Inc.

Gayle Farris is the 25-year former CEO of Forest City Enterprises Science and Technology Group. She created a new paradigm-setting, innovation campus asset-class, partnering with MIT, Johns Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania and other major institutions. These projects established the national standard for state-of-the-art buildings supporting entrepreneurial culture and intensive technology, biotech/pharma uses anchoring revitalized 24/7 urban neighborhoods. She developed and operated two million SF mixed-use Technology/ Medical Research Parks valued at more than $2 billion in current operation with another 8 million SF in development rights. These public-private partnerships generated significant economic development, job creation, technology commercialization, and 1,000+ mixed-income housing units.

Ms. Farris is currently based in NYC engaged in applying innovation campus concepts to vibrant urban place-making around today’s engineering and information technologies and University collaborations with new ventures and established companies. Given the importance of seamless live-work-play environments, she is also partnering on a novel residential brand for active urban dwellers combining lifestyle residential communities, green design, high-tech-high-touch, and comprehensive wellness facilities and programs. These services can also be applied in office and hotel developments. Ms. Farris is a frequent advisor and speaker on urban place-making and an MIT School of Architecture & Planning Research Affiliate for their New Century City world-wide program. She serves on Harvard Graduate School of Design, Real Estate International and Alumnae Advisory Boards. She is a member of the Urban Land Institute, and University Anchor Institutions Council; WX, NY Women Real Estate Executives Group; and is Past President and Chairman of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties Massachusetts Chapter.

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Andrea Lamberti — Partner, Rafael Vinoly Architects

Andrea Lamberti is a partner at Rafael Vinoly Architects. In her 16-year history with the firm she has overseen a broad range of master planning, programming and building projects for university and research organizations as well as civic, cultural and commercial clients. Ms. Lamberti has led the design and construction of laboratory research projects for the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD and the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has also led master planning and programming projects for NYU Abu Dhabi, Rockefeller University, Cornell University, Columbia University Medical Center, University of Chicago Medicine and Washington University in St. Louis. Most recently, she led the development of the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. Ms. Lamberti is a graduate of Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and is registered with the American Institute of Architects.

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Mary Miss — Artist and Creator, City as Living Laboratory

Mary Miss has reshaped the boundaries between sculpture, architecture, landscape design and installation art by articulating a vision of the public sphere where it is possible for an artist to address the issues of our time. Social, cultural and environmental sustainability are the focus of installations that allow the visitor to become aware of history, ecology or aspects of the site that have gone unnoticed.

Miss is currently developing a project to transform Broadway into the new ‘green’ corridor of New York City and has recently completed a project for the Indianapolis Museum of Art focusing on a 6-mile stretch of the White River. She is one of four artists presenting concepts for envisioning the future of Long Island City as part of the exhibition, “Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City” at the Noguchi Museum. She has received grants from the NEA, NOAA, and the National Science Foundation.

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Laura Starr — Principal, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners

Laura Starr is a professional landscape architect, former President of the NY ASLA, and owner of Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners. Her work, largely focused on public-private partnerships, advocates for open spaces to exist at the nexus of the city’s physical, economic, and social fabric. Working as chief landscape architect with the Central Park Conservancy in its formative years, the Battery Park Conservancy, Forest Park Forever, and with emerging international partnerships, Starr has worked with local constituencies to build beloved landscapes. In collaborations with the Mayor’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency and HUD/IPK’s recent Rebuild by Design competition, Starr has sought to integrate consciousness of fine-grained community experience into large-scale infrastructure projects, ensuring that city-wide protection systems enhance rather than diminish the communities in which they are deployed.

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Sheela Maini Søgaard — CEO and Partner, BIG

Sheela Maini Søgaard is a partner of BIG Architecture and as CEO, is responsible for the general management of the BIG group. Her responsibilities include operations, finances, business development and organization development as well as client relationships and studio vision. Since she joined BIG in August 2008 her focus has been on optimizing the operations of BIG to create a sustainable company poised for growth with an agenda to contribute positively to architectural and urban development. Sheela’s focus at BIG has evolved over the past years from running a small office of 45 employees in Copenhagen to managing the production of over 200 employees spread across locations in Denmark, New York and Beijing.

With a background in the commercial side of the business, Sheela’s main focus is on the overall performance of BIG rather than on specific and individual projects in the studio. Sheela’s professional experience covers, among other things, process optimization, cost control and business development – skills gained from her time as Business Development Manager at Meyers ApS, International Product Manager at GN ReSound, and Strategy Consultant at McKinsey.