Schecter is a Manhattan-based writer and historian. His interest in
architecture, urban planning, and urban history evolved from his first
career, as a sculptor. He holds a B.A., magna cum laude, from Yale
University and an M.F.A. from Queens College, CUNY. His writing has
appeared in The Times Literary Supplement (London), The New
York Observer, Metropolis, The Village Voice, The
Washington Post, Terra Nova (MIT Press), and other
In addition to conducting historical walking tours and boat excursions in New York, he has lectured at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, the Gotham Center, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Brooklyn Historical Society, among numerous other venues and appeared in two History Channel documentaries on the American Revolution.
Sculpture, architecture and urban planning are, of course, related arts since all are concerned with three-dimensional design, with the relationships of volumes in space. Any city, considered as a single form, is a sculpture on a grand scale. Barnet Schecters engagement with the similarities between these disciplines began in 1981, when he spent a semester studying sculpture at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. (He still speaks fluent Italian, as well as some French, Spanish and Russian). He traveled widely in Italy and found inspiration in the juxtapositions of ancient and modern architectural elements in the large cities as well as in the perfectly preserved medieval hill towns. Particularly when seen from a distance, in their entirety, the towns have strong sculptural qualities. However, their formal unity, unlike a piece of sculpture, is the result of slow accretion, of individual buildings added over timeunder the influence of myriad religious, social and political forces.
This interest in the complex human forces that shape the built environment has influenced Barnet Schecters writing ever since. He returned to the States and wrote his history thesis at Yale about a medieval square that is preserved today in the center of Milan, Italys most cosmopolitan city. He then moved to New York in 1986 and subsequently began writing about the particular influences that shape this city. His book about New York in the American Revolution is a natural outgrowth of his interests and experiences: In it he recreates the human story of the 18th century battles, while locating them in the fabric of the modern city. The book provides a walking tour of the historic sites that have been preserved or marked, while the main narrative also enables the reader to imagine those that haven't. Similarly, his forthcoming book, The Devil's Own Work, includes an extensive walking tour of Civil War New York.