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Architect, Great Thinker and Astute Critic, Michael Sorkin, Dies of COVID-19

He left a rich body of writings on urban planning and a legacy of teaching

The architecture community mourns the passing of a great thinker, magnanimous teacher, and prolific critic, Michael Sorkin due to COVID-19. 

Sorkin founded Terreform, a not-for-profit think tank, research studio and advocacy group that focuses on progressive ideas about urban planning.

Architect, critic, writer and teacher, Michael Sorkin dies of COVID-19. | @terreformur

Michael Sorkin was one of those rare inexhaustible architects whose practice traversed design, criticism and pedagogy.  A distinguished professor, he served as Director of the Graduate Program of Urban Design in the City University of New York.  He also served as faculty in the Institute of Urbanism at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Gensler Chair at Cornell University, Hyde Chair in Nebraska University, Saarinen Chair in the University of Michigan, the Davenport and Bishop Chairs at Yale University, and professorships at the Architectural Association, Cooper Union, Harvard University, and Columbia University.

His civic leadership saw him as Vice President of Urban Design Forum and Director of the Architecture League of New York.

Among his numerous citations and awards, he received “Design Mind” from the National Design Award in 2013; and Fellow in the field of architecture planning and design from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation in 2015.

He was the architecture critic for The Village Voice and a contributor to Architecture Record, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Michael Sorkin in his studio, during a tour by the Storefront, NYC staff. | @storefrontnyc

Reading Design, an online archive on critical writing about design, from architecture to fashion, published 250 Things an Architect Should Know  by Michael Sorkin.   Among them:

1.             The feel of cool marble under bare feet

2.             How to live in a small room with five strangers for six months

 3.            The distance of a whisper

4.             The distance of a shout in the city

5.             How to listen closely

6.             How to sit in a corner

7.             Something about feng shui

8.             Something about Vatsu Shilpa

9.             The color wheel

10.          What the client wants

The architecture community will remember Michael Sorkin’s passion and generous commitment to urban design and the betterment of city planning.  “Certainly one of the things that make a great city is serendipity and surprise.  I think of cities as being juxtaposition machines, places that engender all sorts of encounters between people and space, between people and people, between people and dogs between spaces and spaces.  And each of these encounters is a formulation of what a city is and what a city means… The accumulation of such encounters in all their diversity, weirdness and surprise constitutes the soul of the city,” he says in a conversation with City Talk’s Doug Muzzio.

Sorkin leaves the architecture community with numerous books and essays: