Posts tagged with "Michael Sorkin":

Terreform celebration of founder, president, comrade Michael Sorkin

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6 p.m. Introduction  Vyjayanthi Rao Co-Director of Terreform Vyjayanthi, a cultural anthropologist, joined Terreform as co-Director in 2015 and part of UR’s editorial team. She co-edited UR 09, Occupy All Streets: Olympic Urbanism and Contested Futures in Rio de Janeiro. Deen Sharp Co-Director of Terreform Deen, a geographer, published his first book with Terreform’s imprint UR Beyond the Square, and took on the role of co-Director in 2017; he co-edited with Michael the latest Terreform book Open Gaza to be published later this year.  6:15   Joan Copjec Professor of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University Joan is a Vice-President of Terreform’s Board of Directors and Michael Sorkin’s spouse. She co-edited with Michael the book Giving Ground: The Politics of Propinquity (Verso) in 1999.  6:20 Makoto Okazaki Former Partner and Principal Architect of Michael Sorkin Studio (2003–2017) 6:25 Andrei Vovk Former Partner and Principal Architect of Michael Sorkin Studio (1992–2003) 6:30 Jonathan Solomon Michael Sorkin Studio 1999-2003 6:35 Tom Angotti Professor Emeritus, Hunter College and The Graduate Center, CUNY Co-editor of the UR book Zoned Out: Race, Displacement and City Planning in New York City and contributor to the forthcoming book Yachay. 6:40 Sofia Butnaru Terreform Researcher Sofia first joined Terreform as a research intern from UChicago in 2016 to work on South Side Stories; since then she's worked on other Terreform and Urban Research projects and would often stop by the office on Saturdays to chat with Michael.  6:45 Denise Hoffman Brandt Professor of Graduate Landscape Architecture CCNY After contributing to New Orleans Under Reconstruction (Verso) co-edited by Michael with Carol McMichael Reese and Anthony Fontenot, she published with Terreform’s imprint UR on matters ecological as co-editor of Waterproofing New York and contributor to Open Gaza. 6:50 Isaac Gertman Design Director, Terreform / Creative Director, UR Books Professor of Graphic Design, Maryland Institute College of Art 7 p.m. Sharing Memories and Stories About Michael
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Missing the mix

In early March, I was still commuting to the office of the A&D magazine where I was working. COVID-19 had only just been detected in New York City, and I continued to hew closely to the workday habitus, albeit with some slight behavioral tweaks. I watchfully avoided the inadvertent brush with other commuters on the train, but I had not thought to wear a face mask; I gave pedestrians a wide berth on sidewalks but not in coffee queues; I washed my hands (and wrists) as though I were scrubbing into surgery, even as I continued to shake those of the people I met for interviews. Although skeptical of voluntarism as redress to social problems, I did not bristle at the public health recommendations seeking to mitigate transmission in shared spaces, nor did I flout them—at least intentionally. Perhaps I was simply not ready to give up the easy pleasures of city life, whether sitting alone and reading in a crowded park, or meeting with friends for beers after work, or pursuing any other banal activity that finds hackneyed resonance on the page or screen. These pleasures, doubtlessly worth protecting, are the right of all in name alone, a fact made obvious by the spread of COVID-19. Like pathogens, inequities are not singular events imposed or grafted onto urban landscapes, but rather reside and preponderate within the laws that structure them. For the critic and architect Michael Sorkin, cities were incubators for politics—and not just any politics, but that breed that is forged through collective struggle in space, spurred on by history. In the past year, Michael and I became close; I provided editorial assistance on a couple of book projects he and his publishing imprint, UR, had going, while he returned the (paid) favor with a spirited rap that belied his failing health. Huddled in his office, we talked in hour-and-a-half segments about book projects, his work, architecture, food, travel. I goaded him into reciting from memory my favorite of his turns of phrase, and he always complied. Michael was also a good friend of the great Bill Menking, cofounder and editor in chief of The Architect’s Newspaper. When AN was looking for an executive editor, Michael referred me to Bill; not long after, I was summoned to the Lispenard Street loft for examination. At the time, in early February, Bill was still settling back into life in the loft after spending the preceding months in the hospital. His occasional wincing telegraphed the bodily pains he was nursing. Nevertheless, he was cogent and determined to resume his daily activities, chronicling a misjudged excursion to the corner post office that resulted in a tumble down the entrance steps. The same day I started the job at AN, Michael died, owing to complications related to COVID-19. Two weeks later, in mid-April, Bill passed away after a protracted battle with cancer. Soliciting tributes from their friends and colleagues to publish on AN’s website, I found myself speaking to the same group of architects and academics back-to-back, some of us battling a feeling of numbness with welcome but uneasy stabs at humor. We at AN are moving ahead, trying our best to keep apace with events in the world and the obstacles that come our way. Like everyone else, we can’t help but tail these selfsame events; for this reason, the contents of the May 2020 issue may already seem out-of-date, or perhaps off-topic. The editorial preoccupation with Los Angeles, a thread that runs throughout the May issue, including our visit to Johnston Marklee’s Westwood studio and feature-length look at a 1.3-mile-long, open-air museum percolating in Hyde Park, was meant to coincide with the since-canceled AIA Conference on Architecture 2020. Which is not to suggest that these initiatives and projects don’t merit coverage on their own—only that our interest in them preceded the arrival of the present pandemic and economic crisis. That explanation aside, we have attended to these realities in a few places in these pages, such as in our report on the efforts of individual architects to manufacture and supply personal protective equipment, or PPE, to medical staff in hospitals. I remain stubbornly attached to my skepticism of voluntarism—we should not have to rely on the improvisatory, if meaningful, action of individual actors to fill the gaps in our healthcare system—but the experience may bequeath to architectural practice new procedures of collaboration and better coordinate the aims of the designer and the desires of the user. If nothing else, these efforts attest to the willingness (not to say eagerness) of practitioners to break outside the confines of practice and engage with the world around them. Last month, AN also launched Trading Notes, a weekly AIA-accredited conversation series that addresses the consequences the pandemic has had for the industry. So far, we have heard from architects, engineers, and construction managers about project slowdowns, the difficulty of conducting site inspections remotely, the comparatively painless move to remote working, the bunching up of material supply chains, and more. At the time of closing the May 2020 issue, AN staff had just entered the seventh week of quarantine. The novelty has worn away, and we have settled into a pattern of work that could go on for much longer. (The current timeline for the easing of stay-at-home orders appears to be early June, but who knows?) I myself have yet to visit AN’s FiDi office and have built relationships with my colleagues entirely over video chat and other messaging applications. This is a different kind of “propinquity” than what Michael advocated for, and one that cannot ever serve as its replacement. It’s perhaps more akin to the sociability Bill so exemplified, but something still less, an all-too-literal face-to-face lacking the infectious charge of shared space. At the moment, we find ourselves caught up in a mix, but deprived of the chance to mix it up. Here's hoping that we’ll be back to it soon.
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Terreform, Berke, Wines, and more remember the late Michael Sorkin

Michael Sorkin, inimitable scribe of the built environment and leading design mind, passed away in New York at age 71 last Thursday after contracting COVID-19. Survived by his wife Joan Copjec, Sorkin leaves behind an invaluable body of work, as the following tributes—from friends, colleagues, peers—readily acknowledge. This is the second of a two-part series; the first can be read here Jie Gu, director, lead urban designer, Michael Sorkin Studio “Jie, can you wiggle these buildings and make them sexy?” “Jie, can you let me have some fun?” “Jie, I had a dream last night. I think we need to try something new.” “Jie, I will be in on Saturday, leave me something not boring.” Michael, I miss the dynamic “creatures” you directed me to model. Michael, I miss the tremendous beauty of your red-colored sketches. Michael, I miss your utopian dreams for sustainable cities. Michael, I wish I could have spent more time with you. “Jie, if I go, you must use our legacy to keep going in the direction that seems best.” These were his last words to me, and they will resonate with me forever. Makoto Okazaki, former partner, Michael Sorkin Studio Like Matsuo Bashō, the most famous haiku poet of Edo-period Japan, Michael was inspired by his many journeys. The last email I received from him—on February 5th, 2020—was about a hospital in Wuhan built in just ten days to treat those infected with COVID-19. It was located within the area where we had, in 2010, designed a masterplan, what we called Houguan Lake Ecological City. In the same email, Michael expressed his disappointment over having to cancel a trip to China due to the spread of coronavirus. He was often on business trips, which took him all over the world. On one occasion, he joked to me that a secret of his happy marriage was traveling alone a lot. I took this as advice! Wherever he was, Michael would send his inspirations and sketches back to the studio in New York City. We would develop them into a design proposal—not without some miscommunication—then toss it over to him. Back and forth, until we landed on something both strange and fantastic. We were thrilled by the whole process. Michael, you’ve now left on another journey. We all miss you. Deen Sharp and Vyjayanthi Rao, co-directors, Terreform Center for Advanced Urban Research Michael fizzed with ideas, his energy always captivating and inspiring. You could walk into his office to talk about a book project that we at Terreform had underway and walk out with instructions to contact a dozen different people about three more. Somehow amid this frenzy of activity, Michael always managed to maintain a laser-like focus on the Terreform mission of producing research to achieve more just, beautiful, and equitable cities. Somehow in this flood of ideas and instructions, proposals and counterproposals, Michael would always get the project done and the book (it always ended in a book!) printed. Terreform was founded in 2005 as a place for connecting research, design, and critique on urgent urban questions and using that research in the public’s interest. UR (Urban Research), founded in 2015 as Terreform’s publishing imprint, was the vehicle to make ideas accessible and truly public. With Michael at the helm, both platforms produced an inordinate number of proposals, books, reports, articles, symposiums, and launches. All were self-initiated, and Michael, initiator that he was, has left all of us at Terreform with plenty more to do. Most urgent is completing his—and Terreform’s—flagship project, New York City (Steady) State. The project’s central proposition is that the city can take responsibility for its ecological footprint. With New York City as his laboratory, Michael led several designers and social scientists in formulating designs and policies that could catalyze metabolic changes to critical infrastructural systems. The aim was to achieve a “steady state” of self-sufficiency within the city’s political boundaries. Ever the contrarian, Michael turned to steady state economics—a radical approach in a world addicted to growth and wilfully blind to its toxic consequences—to fashion an equally radical political vision of cities as central units for ensuring social and ecological justice. NYC (Steady) State was conceived as a series of books focusing on food and waste systems, energy, and mobility as the four key systems drastically in need of redesigning. Just last month, Michael was making final edits to Homegrown, the first book in the series and one focusing on New York City’s food production, consumption cycles, and distribution systems. His devotion to the project was so fierce that even after being hospitalized he sent emails urging us to complete and publish the volume. Beyond New York, projects were incubating in and about practically every corner of the world, all guided by students, friends, and admirers of Michael's. Their ideas were seeded or sharpened in their encounters with Michael at Terreform's 180 Varick Street office, where practically every workday ended with a visitor dropping by to say hello, being introduced to the crew, and sharing ideas over drinks. Terreform’s research projects have taken us to many places and brokered many friendships. For instance, Terreform has a lively group of friends in Chicago hard at work on South Side Stories, a collective project that shines a light on activist groups in the South Side and their struggle to reposition the Obama Presidential Center from a magnet of gentrification to catalyst for equitable, evenly dispersed urban development. Set in another conflict zone, the Terreform/UR book Open Gaza will add to Michael’s already substantial contribution to the Palestinian struggle for social and spatial justice when it is published next month. Our research projects, along with UR’s many internationally focused book projects, are primarily vehicles for showing how critique and design can speak the same language. For Michael, Terreform’s unique mission lay in developing an interdisciplinary dialogue that could be embraced by theorists, practitioners, and activists alike, and enable them to share new ways of looking at and imagining the world. Even as it hewed close to the standards of the university, Terreform sought to democratize these forms of knowledge beyond it by creating an accessible platform to address urgent issues in a timely and nimble fashion. We know we can never fill the huge absence that Michael leaves us. We are nevertheless determined to carry on Michael’s enormous legacy, to complete the large number of projects that are already underway, and to continue the work of urban research for greater social justice, beauty, and equality in our cities. Click here to learn how you can support Terreform. UR books are available for purchase here. James Wines, artist and architect The tragic loss of Michael Sorkin, as both a dear friend and premier voice for urban design on the international architecture scene, is still impossible for me to accept. At 87, I thought I would have been long gone before this, and so never anticipated experiencing the shock and despair I am feeling right now. Michael’s work in design criticism, theory, history, and planning—particularly his efforts to shape the future of cityscapes—was inclusive and visionary; indeed, he was an indelible fixture in global thinking on these topics. He was one of those rare disciplinary figures whose voice was synonymous with the profession, so that it is impossible to think about the condition of architecture and urbanism today without Michael’s ideas as pivotal points of reference and beacons of wisdom. His absence is inconceivable. While the endless fruits of his creativity will remain in museum and university archives to nourish future generations, an enormous part of the communicative value of Michael’s work was his participation in public dialogues. In this sense, he was like a great musical performer who made wonderful recordings; but the full measure of his talents was best experienced in concert format. Michael played both the revolutionary thinker and the consummate public speaker, a performance unmatched in architecture. As friends, professional colleagues, and career-long skeptics concerning all manifestations of design orthodoxy, Michael and I had a bottomless reservoir of art and design issues to debate during our thirty-plus years of dialogue. In terms of primary emphasis, we were both committed to solutions for the public domain and how to best encourage interaction among people within cityscapes. I often used to comment, when introducing our appearances on symposia, that Michael took care of the larger issues in urban design while I followed up with solutions for the small stuff under people’s feet. As our discussions unfolded, this was invariably the scenario that played out: Michael would cover the master plans, civic strategies, economics, and infrastructure, and then I would insert ideas for the pedestrian amenities of walkways, seating, plazas, gardens, and play spaces. Whereas I could hold my own in the presentation of visual material, Michael’s verbal eloquence always stole the show. I can recall so many lectures and conferences where I would find myself so enthralled with Michael’s delivery that my own faculties failed when it came my turn to speak. He was the ultimate impossible-act-to-follow on any podium. Michael and I had that kind of nurturing friendship where we could meet in an explosion of discourse on some hot topic, or just sit quietly at dinner and experience the reinforcing comfort of saying nothing. Of all Michael’s many talents, the pinnacle was his acerbic wit, with which he skewered the pomposities of our profession and politics of the day. Not only was his trenchant humor invariably on target, it was always articulated in such a way that inspired the opposition to re-think an issue. It is especially ironic that Michael Sorkin—a major advocate of integrative cities and people interaction—passed away during a time of global pandemic, when millions of urban dwellers have retreated into protective isolation. For this reason, I want to end this tribute with a quote on his work from my 2000 book Green Architecture:
Michael Sorkin might appropriately be called a visionary with a heart. He has understood that, with the universal buzz about people living in cyberspace and communicating primarily through global wavelengths, this is already a reality and just another convenient set of tools that will soon be assimilated into the realm of routine. In this respect, computers are just like every other exotic technology that has nourished science fiction hyperbole and ended up as nostalgic curios in antique auctions. In designing for the future city, Sorkin has acknowledged that people are weary of looking at digital screens all day and sit-coms all night; so why on earth would they want their neighborhood to be another extension of virtual reality? The fact is that people need and value human interaction more than ever because of computer technology. In the Sorkin city, they walk, talk, sit on stoops, tend their gardens, and breathe cleaner air. Preserving this desirable reality is the basic goal of sustainability and the primary urban design challenge of the future.
Moshe Safdie, principal, Safdie Architects For several decades, Michael Sorkin has been a unique voice in architecture. In a period of competing schools of thoughts, transitioning from one “-ism” to another, his critical voice was clear and constant, unwavering, with a focus on the impact of architecture on peoples’ lives and well-being; on the principles that must sustain urban life. He spoke about morals, values and ethics as others reviewed architecture as an ongoing fashion parade. Michael’s commitment to the idea that architecture must be in the service of those for whom we build, led him to strip the discourse of architecture from jargon and private lingo; expressing ideas clearly and articulately to the general public. As a critic at The Village Voice, he reached many outside the profession. He became propagandist for architecture, both within the profession and to the public at large, expanding horizons of the impact of our built environment has on our planet. Michael was a great and passionate teacher. I vividly remember his attendance at design reviews at the GSD, where sometimes faculty comments verge on the esoteric. Michael responded with surgical precision, getting to the essence of a design, and doing so in plain-talk. In his practice, both in Michael Sorkin Studio and Terreform, he was a prolific provocateur, embracing scales from small neighborhood parks to entire cities. The studio produced numerous proposals. Alas, not enough were realized, but the impact on the current generation is profound. It is not often that we find, in one person, an architect, urban designer, educator, theorist, critic and writer. I will miss his voice, cut-off suddenly and untimely, at a time when it is most needed. I hope that the coming generation will embrace the professional ethic his life represents. Deborah Berke, partner, Deborah Berke Partners, and dean of the Yale School of Architecture Michael Sorkin was a great critic, inspired teacher, and a brilliant thinker. And happily for me, he was my friend. We would have a drink together once or twice a year and talk about New York. From old New York to the New York we loved to the New York we missed to the New York we hoped for in the future. Michael was a searing and insightful critic, all the way back to his days at The Village Voice, as well as in his many books and in his more recent criticism for The Nation. He was also an insightful teacher—he taught at Yale twice, first in 1990 as the William B. and Charlotte Shepherd Davenport visiting professor, then in 1991 as the William Henry Bishop visiting professor. He brought these same teaching skills to his strong leadership as the director of the master of urban planning program at the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College (CCNY). He was also one of the most learned and well-read people I’ve ever met. His interests were diverse and his memory was expansive. Michael argued for the greater good in every aspect of the built environment—from the smallest detail of a building to the largest gesture of a regional plan. He will be missed. His convictions, his voice, and his heart are irreplaceable. Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University I can still rerun lines in my head verbatim from some of Michael’s Village Voice pieces—especially the ones I just couldn’t stop rereading while howling with laughter. His send-up of the Charlottesville Tapes was a true classic, a teddy bear to reach for in the most desperate moments of trying to survive postmodernism. Michael was an arsonist to be sure, yet he also wanted to rebuild something of value and commitment in the place of pretension and posturing. He held out hope for all engaged in architecture to his last moments—as the bright moral light on the horizon that he was—that architecture could still be an instrument for building community. When Reinhold Martin and I looked to launch our experimental Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream project in 2011, amid the ongoing foreclosure crisis, we turned to Michael, inviting him to participate in the opening panel discussion. He offered cogent analyses of our all-too vague brief as well as suggested lines of attack for making architecture that mattered. Along the way he also offered the audience gathered at MoMA PS1 and online a very moving description of his own upbringing in Hollin Hills, Northern Virginia. Hollin Hills was a place where Americans cultivated living together, Michael said, in language that starkly contrasts with the language of intolerance that has since invaded American life, virus-like. Ironically, I think he feared this virus more than the one that took him from us. Michael left us right when we needed him most. With his lucid intelligence, sense of purpose, and biting satirical way of writing, he could cut away the flack even as he focused us on the essential. Nothing he wrote is dated, even if much of it was provoked by immediate events. To reread his pieces is to be in conversation with one of the most truly original and free-thinking minds of architecture. I can’t imagine how anyone will fill the gap, but the texts will continue to delight us and offer refreshing insights. (Think how he knew, for instance, to appreciate Breuer’s Whitney at the moment when fashionable opinion was dead-set against it.) There are many ways to spend our evenings apart at the moment. I, for one, have found a superb tonic for these dark times: pour a glass of bourbon in Michael’s memory and prop open your favorite collection of his writings. We will miss you for years and years to come, Michael. Vanessa Keith, principal, StudioTEKA Design When I came to New York City as a young architect 20 years ago, I was in search of a mentor. Coming from a fine arts background, I wanted someone who I felt was a truly great mind, who I could learn from, and who would take me under their wing. So when I met Michael while I was working on a project for the Spitzer School of Architecture at CCNY, I felt an immediate affinity. He reminded me in some ways of my academic parents and their radical lefty friends who dreamed of a better world while working on their PhD dissertations. From there, I started teaching studio at CCNY in 2002, and being invited to Michael’s UD juries was definitely a high point. He was so innovative, and he always had the backs of everyday people who don’t always get to have their voices heard. He made us think critically and differently, and he didn’t shut down ideas just because they were coming from someone younger or less “educated.” In 2007, Michael; Achva Stein, then head of CCNY’s landscape architecture program; David Leven, of LevenBetts and CCNY; and Ana Maria Duran, a good friend from grad school at Penn who was teaching at PUCE (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador) in Quito, were doing a joint architecture, landscape, and urban design studio focused on a site in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Ana Maria invited me to lead a student charrette at the Quito Architecture Biennale, which I accepted. Once there, I received another invitation, this one to travel with the studio groups to Lago Agrio, taking Achva’s place. Again, I accepted, getting the yellow fever vaccine and some anti-malaria pills. Shivering and teeth chattering from a reaction to the injection, I jumped on the bus heading down the mountains. What a treat! We took trips up the river with local guides in canoes, avoided the areas marked “piranha,” and at a safer junction jumped into the muddy river water fully dressed in all our gear. The entire group stayed in the rainforest at a research station, saw butterflies in metamorphosis against the backdrop of oil installations, and had a jolly old time. Michael joked about making a calendar featuring scrappy Ecuadorian street dogs, the very antithesis of the Westminster Dog Show. He always rooted for the underdog, valuing the ingenuity and skills of local people and treating them with the utmost respect. Michael helped so many people, and he was so generous with his time. He was always up for coming to Studioteka and playing the role of critic for whatever we were working on in our annual summer research project. That’s how my book, 2100: A Dystopian Utopia — The City After Climate Change for Terreform’s UR imprint, came to be. Several years of in-office juries, occasionally zinging (but usually hilarious and on-point) critiques, and edits followed, and the book came out in 2017. Since then, Michael and the team at Terreform have offered incredible guidance, support and enthusiasm, helping us to get the word out, and cheering me on through each book event, lecture, publication, and milestone. More recently, we had our 2100 VR day at StudioTEKA and gave Michael, along with UR managing director Cecilia Fagel, their very first experience in virtual reality! They were dubious at first, but they were quickly among the converted. At one point in the VR tour, they were put on a plank changing a lightbulb hundreds of feet above the city, and in the end, they asked everyone to jump down. Michael demurred, Cecilia said yes, and we had to catch her! Michael was a brilliant mind, a champion of the dispossessed, and someone who fought valiantly for a just, equitable, and environmentally sustainable future. He believed in cities, in the power of collective action, and that doing better was always possible. Now we must strive to carry on without him, and push hard for the better world he laid out for us in his work. M. Christine Boyer, William R. Kenan, Jr. professor of architecture and urbanism, Princeton University School of Architecture It is too soon to bid farewell to my friend and colleague Michael Sorkin, whom I knew since we were students together at MIT. The last time we saw each other, in late January, we simply hugged each other goodbye: he was due to fly to China, I to Athens. It is indeed a silent spring now that he is gone! Yet his legacy lives on. He leaves a profound and lasting impact on public awareness, on architectural practice, on political commitment! His call to action remains. Michael Sorkin was the conscience of architecture, a visionary change-maker, dedicated educator, engaged author, and imaginative designer. He never backed down from opposing points of view. Rather, he called us all to live better in the world, to mend the city of inequity and injustice. He helped us build solid relationships through his edited books, a forum he built for voices to rise up together in solidarity. He was truly the root from which sprung our dedication to a socially responsible architecture. Michael’s pen brilliantly and humorously elevated the level of architectural and urban criticism into a new art. He was always writing for a better city yet to come. His concern was how to build a city of freedom, diversity, authenticity, participation, intimacy. Let his words speak!
“For me, writing has been the extension of architecture by other means both polemically and as fuel for my money pit of a studio. I write because I am an architect.” —Some Assembly Required (2001) “Architecture cries out for a reinfusion of some sense of responsibility to human program as a generative basis for both its ideology and its formal and technological practice, but gets it less and less.” —Some Assembly Required (2001) “[T]he new city is little more than a swarm of urban bits jettisoning a physical view of the whole; sacrificing the idea of the city as the site of community and human connection.”—Variations on a Theme Park (1991)
He pleaded for a return to a more authentic urbanity, “a city based on physical proximity and free movement and a sense that the city is our best expression of a desire for collectivity.” The goal was, and is, “to reclaim the city is the struggle of democracy itself.” And it is a struggle over contending voices!
“[T]he City is both a place where all sorts of arrangements are possible, and the apparatus for harmonizing autonomy and propinquity./ Freedom, pleasure, convenience, beauty, commerce, and production are the reasons for the City.” —Local Code: The Constitution of a City at 42° N Latitude (1993)
Michael’s critical writings on the politics of architecture live on, be they about the utopian schemes for the World Trade Center or the reconstruction of New Orleans, or the engagement of Palestinian and Israeli voices in the future of Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. He wrote about the battle for freedom, global and local responsibility, the environment, even as he addressed the milieu of architecture, making appeals for inclusion, for connectivity, for sharing, and more. In this silent spring of isolation that robs us of his voice, his pen, his friendship and humor, listen to the small murmurs arising, the tributes that come in from far and near. Witness his influence great and small. From the soil he has nourished with his commitment and action will spring forth—amid ongoing contestation—a better city. Listen to his call! This dear Michael, our Michael, is your enduring legacy.
Sharon Zukin, professor emerita of sociology, Brooklyn College and City University Graduate Center Michael Sorkin was an architect’s writer and a writer’s architect. He had a brilliant wit, a ready command of politics, history, and principles of design, and a passionate commitment to social justice. He wrote in plain English and published prolifically. He scorned hypocrisy, shunned opportunists, and acted to build a better world. Although he had peeves—venal real estate developers, corrupt politicians, celebrity architects, that tin-plated hustler Donald Trump—Michael wasn’t peevish. He could not tolerate intolerance. He was impatient with himself, but he was also a generous teacher, colleague, and friend. During all the years that I knew him (I want to write have known him), I never understood how he could travel so far, write so much, or launch so many projects with so many people and always bring them to completion. Yet his genius ranged most freely, and his rage was most keenly charged, when he wrote about ego and power in the city that he loved: New York. I admired Michael as a writer before I knew him as either an architect or a friend.  I had been a devoted reader of his architectural criticism in The Village Voice during the 1980s. At the time, New York was in transition, moving from widespread deprivation to Reaganite glamour, yuppie glitz, and localized gentrification, even as fiscal austerity penalized the Rust Belt of the outer boroughs and quarantined communities of color. Michael cut through the hype to the complicit collusion of the real estate industry and government agencies; I learned a lot from reading him. Although he and I walked the same streets—and lived in the same neighborhood, Greenwich Village—his streets were more layered than mine because he knew more, had a better eye, and directed his critiques with pinpoint clarity. Who could ever catch up with him? The elegant essays that make up the book Twenty Minutes in Manhattan—shaped by the walk from his home to his office—are my favorites in Michael’s considerable oeuvre. He starts with the stairs in the Old Law tenement where he and Joan, his wife and life-partner, lived for many years. He recounts the difficulties he has had climbing those stairs, especially on crutches after surgery, and then segues into a brief but exact description of their construction. This leads him to reflect on other, grander stairs. The long, straight flights of stairs in late-nineteenth-century industrial buildings that formed a “tectonic loft vocabulary” within the cultural syntax of New York. The elegant double staircases in the Château de Blois. The capacious stairs in the MIT dorm designed by Alvar Aalto, made wide so students would stop to talk to each other. Long before Prada stores and tech and other “creative” offices sprouted them, Michael had already taken the measure of a staircase’s possibilities. “Architecture,” Michael drops into his conversation with the reader, “is produced at the intersection of art and property.” He exhumes the grid plan from its origins in the fifth century BC and relates it to the well-known scheme for laying out potential profit-bearing plots of land throughout Manhattan. Adopted in 1811, the grid not only set New York’s major money machine in motion but also set the course for its buildings, their heights and morphologies, and, yes, the stairs inside them. Which naturally makes him consider the pitch of the treads at the pyramids in Chichen Itza, only to return, once more, to his New York brownstone. This is—was—typical of Michael in writing as in casual conversation: erudition wrapped in humor that didn’t allow pomposity. Like Jane Jacobs, whom he greatly admired, and in whose honor he founded a lecture series at the Spitzer School of Architecture, he was a citizen of both the Village and the world. Like Jacobs, too, he saw the world in the city—but he also saw the city in the world. Michael traveled constantly, giving lectures, pitching projects, taking his students on field trips to South Africa one year and to Cuba another. During his career, he wrote about many different cities. Wherever a community of architects, activists, and urban designers protested a plan, or struggled to turn back an egregious intrusion of monumentalism into a skyline or streetscape, Michael was there. You could count on him to fire broadsides, mobilize the troops, and persuade strangers to join him. A few years ago, he persuaded me and others to write a short essay for a collective book he was putting together with people in Helsinki. This group strongly opposed the city government’s plan to contract with the Guggenheim Museum, then still in its expansionist phase, to build an expensive branch on a stretch of waterfront better left for public use. With these collaborators, Michael organized an anti-competition for design ideas and made us scholars into a jury. This mobilization, echoed by the popular opposition within Helsinki, helped to sink the Guggenheim plan. (Or, at least, it forced the city council to reveal its lack of funds.) The last time I saw Michael, one month before he died, he asked me to come by his office. We talked about a Hungarian artist’s book project on luxury apartments for which we were both writing essays, dished some dirt about various cultural figures on the South Side of Chicago, and looked at the old photographs of Michael’s family on his shelves. We laughed about the double portrait of Joan and himself in front of the Taj Mahal that he had painted in Vietnam; Joan, considering it trashy, would not allow it in their home. Michael asked if I could recommend someone who could write about race and class in the neighborhoods near the University of Chicago for a book he was planning for his publishing house UR, and then asked if I would write something for yet another book he was planning, on smart cities. Although he was not in the best of health, a frailty that the virus would exploit, he still pushed forward.  He was only prevented from taking another trip—to Africa—by the emerging blockade of travel restrictions. My last email from Michael came one week later. He heard me talking about my new book on the radio and immediately sent me fan mail. This, too, was Michael: he acted on friendship. Almost twenty years ago, he and I edited a book of essays by New York urbanists where we tried to put together our abundant sorrows and critical thoughts about the World Trade Center. The words Michael wrote about the fallen Twin Towers surely apply to him. He was, in all respects, “the Everest of our urban Himalayas.”
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Moss, Mayne, Holl, and more remember the late Michael Sorkin

Michael Sorkin, inimitable scribe of the built environment and leading design mind, passed away in New York at age 71 last Thursday after contracting COVID-19. Survived by his wife Joan Copjec, Sorkin leaves behind an invaluable body of work, as the following tributes—from friends, colleagues, peers—readily acknowledge. This is the first of a two-part series; the second can be read here. Eric Owen Moss, principal, Eric Owen Moss Architects: Michael Sorkin, Where are you? In sight of the invisible. Loyal to that cause. Michael the critic. Michael the urbanist. Michael the politico polemicist. Michael the architect. Michael the sardonic humorist. Homeless and everywhere at home. Educating the educators. Colleague’s definition. Friend’s definition. Redrawing the criticalurbanistpolicoarchitecthumorist’s map. In perpetuity. So those in arrears can follow. If they can. Michael, where are you? Eating at Rosa? Laughing together at the prima ballerina and the qb? Someone once told us, “the sun also ariseth.” Just not today. Love you. Thom Mayne, founding partner, Morphosis Architects: In the eighties when we were all starving, Michael would put me up in his apartment where I would occupy an unforgettable Pesce Feltri chair while we talked late into the night about the subject we both loved—architecture. Exhausted and enfolded in the wings of that chair, I would sleep and then awaken as though no time had passed before we were at it again. His voice, then as it was yesterday, was incisive and fearless and sometimes stinging. He challenged me repeatedly with words I often didn’t want to hear. But I trusted him—his comments were clearly coming from a place of generosity and honesty and commitment to his project which was, finally, about social justice. He spoke of our awesome responsibilities, he spoke relentlessly of the power of architecture to change lives, he never stopped insisting that we must never stop fighting—for what we believed in, for a resistance to the status quo. His prodigious intelligence combined with his obvious love of humanity gave his words a rare gravitas and power. Finally, I ask myself why I am thinking about that room, that chair, that time, and I realize that it’s the gift of connection with people that made Michael so special. I’m thinking about that chair, those hours, that mind, and I, like every single person I’ve spoken with these last few days, am undone, feeling lost in a fog of sadness whose edges I can’t quite find. Steven Holl, principal, Steven Holl Architects: The shocking tragic news that Michael Sorkin was taken out by COVID-19 is unbelievable—tragically surreal. I had known Michael for over forty years. He invited me to an event on New Year’s Eve when I first arrived in New York City. He was a very rare architect of deep intellect and sharp wit. He was a champion of remarkable urban visions, and like our close friend Lebbeus Woods, he had fearless convictions about architecture. Michael was a character like Cervantes’s Don Quixote in the best way. I remember him saying, “I may not achieve all my visions, but I will die fighting for them.” Let’s pay attention to this tragic moment in humanity. As Malebranche said, “attention is the natural prayer of the soul.” Deborah Gans, founding principal, Gans Studio: I have been revisiting Michael’s responses to our troubles, both immediate and looming, Katrina and Jerusalem, climate change and global violence. There is always the razor-sharp text that lays bare difficult truths with their ethical demands and their physical consequences for architecture and planning. But then there is most often a drawn proposal, filled with exuberance, for our way out. He was this binary as a person—as committed to optimism as to confrontation with injustice, as joyful in his being, as devastating in his wit. Through his writing, we understand the precariousness of New Orleans; but then, through his inspired design for a neighborhood of inhabited levees, we are hopeful. In crystalline prose, he dispatches the ethical follies of the Israel-Palestinian impasse, with its competing narratives of suffering, ownership, environmental stewardship, holiness, diaspora, and nationality; but then, in signature pink plans, he imagines a green armature for a new Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, and we ask ourselves, “Why not?” We need him now to help us unpack the rhetoric of an urbanism of distance and a city of essential services, and all the political dimensions of the plague that took him. We also need the plan that he would have given us to take back our cities after this deluge. Of that plan, we can be sure of one thing—it would be green, democratic, and joyful. Achva Benzinberg Stein, landscape architect: “Dahling,” Michael often said to me, “stop complaining and get to work.” And that is what he always did. Working at living as well as he could, teaching through mentoring, encouraging, opening our minds to new ideas and new ways to implement them, writing so very eloquently using his special language, laced with nuances, built with rich vocabulary, evidence to his immense knowledge in many fields. When we met once in 1994, most of his work at that time was speculative. But he trusted in the power of a good concept to convince people to act. If money was needed to pay his helpers who depended on him, there was no question of what was to be done. “Dahling, you will see everything will be covered sooner or later. The main thing is not to be afraid." And that was his way in design, playing with objects and forms and never afraid to try or to admit failure, inventing solutions to any problem that entered his mind with incredible humor, with a love of people, with deep concern but strong belief in the potential embedded in the collective, in the City. Farewell, my soul brother. I miss you terribly. Lesley Lokko, dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City University of New York: I met Michael Sorkin once, briefly, at a conference in Johannesburg exactly a decade ago. It was at one of those post-event dinners where everybody meets everybody and the conversation was brief. I was a bit starstruck. We didn't exchange contact details and were never in touch again. Nine years later, he put my name into the hat for a new dean at City College's Spitzer School of Architecture. In the three short months since I've been “on seat,” as we say in West Africa, we met a handful of times at faculty meetings or occasionally in the corridor. Three weeks ago, he quickly organized a dinner with the Israeli filmmaker, Amos Gitai, simply because I mentioned, in passing, that I was a huge fan of his work. “I'll get you guys together for dinner.” And he did. It was a brilliant dinner and Michael, although “off the wagon,” was a brilliant host. It was the last time I saw him. Through the tributes that have flooded into my inbox over the past few days, I now understand that generosity, acumen, and the immensely social ability to foster—and retain—the trust, affection, and respect of so many widely dispersed and unrelated people was not only his hallmark, it was the man. It's a cliché but, like most clichés, it's rooted in truth: You don't realize what you have until it's gone. Harriet Harris, dean of Pratt Institute School of Architecture: Thankfully, there are no easy words for a difficult man; one who challenged architects to grow some proverbial ethics, to stand up for others, to even stand up for themselves, and to resist the spatial crimes of unbridled neoliberalism. I will remember Michael because he gave me and others permission to use architecture as a form of poetically charged, social protest. Few educator-practitioners have done this, in truth. I will not forget the debt I owe him. His impatience with the debilitating conventions of the canon super-charged our conversations, disrupted debates, and endeared him to students who were otherwise pressed up against the electric fence that divides practice from academe. Michael insisted that there were 250 things we architects should all know about architecture, but perhaps there is only one thing to know about Michael: we are a much-diminished community without him. Mike Davis, writer, activist, and urban theorist: Michael Sorkin died today of coronavirus in an overcrowded hospital and it is a shattering loss. If some people consider me an “urban theorist” it’s only because in 1992 Michael conscripted me to write a chapter in his volume Variations in a Theme Park. His ideas have had an immense influence in shaping my own. He was by any measure the most important radical theorist of city life and architecture in the last half century. New Yorkers old enough to have been Village Voice readers in the 1980s when he was the paper’s architecture critic will never forget the war he waged against mega-developers and urban rapists like Donald Trump. Or how in Whitmanesque prose he weekly sang the ballad of New York’s unruly, democratic streets. At a time when postmodernists were throwing dirt over the corpse of the twentieth century, Michael was resurrecting the socialist dreams and libertarian utopias that were the original soul of architectural modernism. When the peoples’ city was under attack he was inevitably the first to march to the sound of the guns. And then…his devilish glee, his kindness, his soaring imagination, his 50,000 volts of creative energy…. I’m drowning my keyboard in tears. Michael, you rat, why did you go when we need you most? Dean MacCannell, emeritus professor, Environmental Design & Landscape Architecture, University of California, Davis: Death suddenly snatched Michael Sorkin away from us. But we can’t let him go. He was in our lives in too many ways. There are so many points of attachment no amount of time can undo them. Michael was a teacher to us all—not just those fortunate enough to be enrolled in his seminars and studios. When he asked me to work on problems I knew little about—as he often did—he always overlooked my ignorance and demanded that I work with him. He was an architect beyond architecture. He knew exactly how to create the openings that would draw me fully into his schemes. Michael was enormously learned across many fields and disciplines, but he wore his learning lightly and deployed it strategically with a wicked sense of humor. He wrote beautifully, giving form to our consciousness an instant in advance. Michael left behind his belief in the future promise of urban life together—creatively re-imagined. Unfinished work for the rest of us, and the necessary tools to do it: an unshakable confidence in humanity; in our capacity for self-governance; our ability to realize other enlightenment ideals; and to create a beautiful common ground. Thank you, Michael. We’ll try to do our best, but dammit, it would be so much easier if you were still here to guide us. Eyal Weizman, founding director of Forensic Architecture and professor of spatial and visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London: Locked down in stunned, helpless isolation with the exit sign switched off, I heard that Michael had died, without a warning or a goodbye. The contemporary prophet of public space and urban conviviality died in a hospital—one of the last places where physical proximity is still possible, indeed, unavoidable. The virus diagrams the kind of social interaction that Michael championed in a vibrant city that had now nearly totally closed down, the price of human contact having become too high. On the evening when the horrible message arrived, the people of our London neighborhood, seeking some form of communion, stood each at their window to clap for the medical workers like those who were by Michael’s side in his last days, risking their lives to try to save his and ours. Michael was our family friend—Alma, my daughter, was spoiled being his goddaughter—and so we were at our window, simultaneously sobbing, clapping, and hitting pots with wooden spoons, giving Michael the send-off we thought he’d appreciate. The rest of the mourning must be done in isolation—and my heart goes to Joan who cannot benefit from the proximity of those that loved them dearly. Michael was also my architectural godfather. In a number of small but crucially corrective interventions, he put me on my path. He read my books when they were still drafts, giving comments, helping find titles and publishers. Only a few weeks ago he took the time to campaign for me when I was not allowed to travel to the United States, just as he often did for others less privileged. We met in 1994, when, as a young admiring student at the Architectural Association (AA), I was one of those campaigning for him to be the new director of the school. When Michael finally won the vote and got the post, he decided to decline it, opting instead to pursue his own singular path: he set up his studio; founded the research organization Terreform and the publishing imprint UR (Urban Research); and became the Director of Graduate Design at the City College, where he was Distinguished Professor. In short, he constructed on his own a polymorphous entity through which to realize various aspects of his wide urban visions. At the same time, he continued to advocate his ideas in a stream of essays and books, and to sketch them in numerous visionary schemes and drawings. (Many of the latter are still unpublished, but Joan assures me that they will be coming out soon.) Drawing on the vocabulary of 1970s New York activism, he expanded the spectrum of architectural and urban action: sit-ins, town-hall-meetings, petitions, appeals, the writing of codes and bills of rights. Learning from his struggles with the kind of New York developers that now run the United States, he brought his sense of urban justice, and feisty activism to Palestine, Northern-Ireland, and the U.S.-Mexico border. Since architecture was part of the problem, it owed a certain debt, and Michael encouraged architects to pay up by inventing solutions. In 1998, an impish trickster, Michael seduced a group of Palestinian and Israeli architects and other intellectuals to a conference on occupied and segregated Jerusalem at a lake-side villa in Bellagio, Italy. It was here that I first met Suad Amiry, Rashid Khalidi, Omar Yusuf, and Ariella Azoulay. We listened together as Michael insisted, more optimistically than most of us, that we could use architecture to do something about this injustice, although he understood that, by itself, unaccompanied by the fundamental political changes we must all struggle for, architecture could do very little. His subsequent book projects on Palestine—The Next Jerusalem, Against the Wall, and Open Gaza—demonstrate what he meant. He was right, at a time when the grip of architecture tightens all around us, when the builders of walls, towers, and digital surveillance systems are in charge, and when authoritarianism is using the global health emergency to encroach on our civil liberties—we all need to channel something of Michael and continue the fight. He will now bring his to gods and angels. Go on Michael, give them hell! Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University: When I moved to New York in the late eighties, I got into the habit of seeing the city through Michael’s eyes, and I suppose I always will. Already a unique kind of critic, he then turned into a doer, which I especially admired. We worked together in various ways, but most memorably on two competition juries. The first was for a Public Space project associated with the Atlanta Olympics. The aggressive charm with which Michael lobbied fellow jury members on behalf of his picks won me over. I became his willing accomplice, and we went all in for the most audacious entries, knowing full well that, in the real world, the odds of them being greenlighted were slim. Many years later, we both had the idea, independently, of mounting an alternative to the competition for the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki, and so we joined forces to see it through. In sheer expenditure by firms all over the world, the official competition was the most labor-intensive and costly ever seen. A true bonfire of the vanities. Ours was run on a budget of five thousand euros and operated more like a think tank for ideas for infusing arts and urbanism. The whole thing brought out the best in Michael—his fierce distaste for architectural elitism, his appetite for popular quality, his spontaneous fellow-feeling, and, yes, his legendary sense of mischief, now so sadly extinguished. Daniel Monk, George R. and Myra T. Cooley chair in peace and conflict studies at Colgate University: When Michael Sorkin died last week, he left behind the draft of a work—a soon-to-be published volume of essays in honor of Mike Davis—that we had been editing together. In it, Michael records his own first encounters with the national mall in Washington, D.C. In these memories of “the American agora,” he presents the immanent logic of the mall’s development, amounting to a perpetual betrayal of its promise. If, as so many others have already noted, Michael could always adopt the standpoint of hope, good humor, and mischief in the face of despair, this is because he knew that it is precisely in broken promises that a regulative ideal—the demand for political freedom he always championed—was being kept alive, despite our collective efforts to close our eyes and pretend otherwise. Charles Waldheim, John E. Irving professor of landscape architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design: I was fortunate to know Michael Sorkin as a public intellectual, as a personal role model, and as a friend. His loss leaves an enormous void in the heart of the city and in those of us who have committed our lives to understanding it. Michael brought a journalist’s eye and a critic’s wry wit to writing about the city, describing it as a collective social construct and a set of lived experiences. His insightful prose cut through layers of accumulated capital, both economic and cultural. His wildly imaginative design propositions for intervening in the city double as a form of cultural criticism, revealing the archeology of power structures, class construction, and collective resistance. Most contemporary discourse on the design of the city has atrophied into one of two mutually exclusive and ultimately inadequate narratives. On the one hand, our discussions of the city devolve into an exclusive preoccupation with policy, participation, and governance as disconnected from its spatial and cultural contexts. On the other hand, our accounts are equally often constrained to the description of individual sites, projects, and protagonists as architectural singularities lacking any meaningful connection to the collective. Describing the city as a collective cultural project was Michael Sorkin’s great gift to us. Who among us will take up that project now?
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Michael Sorkin passes away after contracting coronavirus

Michael Sorkin, the architect, urbanist, theorist, author, and director emeritus of Graduate Urban Design Program of the City College of New York (CCNY), has passed away after contracting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). His death was confirmed by fellow CCNY staff and unfortunately marks what could be the first U.S. loss of life from the pandemic in the architecture world. Sorkin was born in 1948 in Washington, D.C., and went on to receive a bachelor’s from the University of Chicago in 1970 and a Master of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974. Michael Sorkin Studio was formed in the 1980s in New York City, and in 2005, Sorkin founded the nonprofit Terreform to further urban research. Other than the research and built projects Sorkin’s studios produced (most recently Michael Sorkin Studio was a finalist in the 2019 Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC competition), Sorkin was perhaps most known broadly for his prolific writing. Since the 1980s, when Sorkin was the architecture critic for the Village Voice, he contributed critiques, opinion pieces, urbanist musings, and more to numerous outlets including The Architectural Review, Architectural Record, The Nation, and AN, among others. His contributions as an editor are too numerous to list in full, and last year the AIA awarded Sorkin the 2019 Collaborative Achievement Award for his 40-plus years of helping to diversify the field of design. This is breaking news, and AN will follow this announcement with a full obituary in the coming days.
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Two Journeys reflects on Michael Webb's jack-of-all-trades career

Michael Webb is a virtuoso English architect, inventor, and artist who was a member of Archigram in London before emigrating to the United States in the late 1960s. Continuing his link with the group and his inventive investigations, he survives by teaching in architecture schools. Yet baldly stated, these facts hardly prepare one for the extraordinary document that is Two Journeys, his latest book.

Reading it, I have a serious suggestion: For those who have not had a chance to meet Webb or hear him speak, search online for a video of one of his lectures (there must be quite a few out there). Listen carefully, and then listen and watch it again. Then read the book carefully. His manner of speaking is slowly paced, often with the odd aside, spoken in a kind of English that those of us who remained in London after the 1960s have sullied through the influence of “Estuary English," the result of the cosmopolitanism of London that leads one to incorporate a faintly European sentence structure, some West Indian patois, or the occasional charming Italian bon mot. Not Michael: His parlance and manner are as charming and reassuring as the surviving BBC radio program Gardeners’ Question Time, which he still probably remembers. He speaks with a trace of wistfulness, useful hints, and a whiff of friendly irony—often with quite a laugh, but behind that lies a rapierlike thrust. That this book has finally emerged is wonderful, and for those of us who had despaired of it ever happening, it is a precious thing. Webb’s text is loaded with the same asides and nuances as the lectures themselves, accompanied by revealing pieces of characterization, such as his description of Cedric Price as, “A new suitor sporting slick-backed hair and a golden tongue”—or, “Nursing a martini whilst seated on the terrace of the Johansen house…one has the feeling that the terrace (can it really be so?) is no longer level. With the clarity of perception that a second martini brings, I realize that indeed, the plane is tipping up, at an ever-increasing angle.” Thus, in the first aside he captures the humility (or frustration) of a world where architectural ideas are the victim of style and communication, and in the second, he creates a charming lead-in to the discussion of shadow effect in the sun studies of 1988. The journeys—and there are surely more than two—take us in and out of exquisite drawings that are never really finished. Therein lies one of the agonizing challenges to observers of the work. For surely Webb can draw (and how). Long ago I once caught a glimpse of a pre–High Wycombe project, probably from his third year, in which he wielded the shaded pencil to suggest so many of Le Corbusier’s mannerisms on a single piece of paper. Yet in an early drawing of the High Wycombe project made to illustrate the ferro-cement technique, he left it just three-quarters finished because (as I remember him saying), “It didn’t capture the material.” On other occasions, he tackled the vexed territory of oil painting with a determination that did, eventually, produce the beatific Brunhilde’s magic ring of fire, with its floating angels. However, perfectionism has not always been accompanied by much archival concern for the state of the drawings, and tales of them being lost, damaged, blown off the roof of a car, or even forgotten are legion—and it shows in the book. In an attempt to keep the explanation of a project or train of thought going forward, the illustrations range from a fashion-plate exposure of clouds and translucent panels for his five-phase house to the succulent paintwork of Henley Regatta landscape details, along with the occasional, slightly hairy “rescued” item from an old slide collection. It would seem that the key search for perfection remains that of the idea, the pursuit of the drawing apparently being a means to the end. But in the cases of the reworked versions of the Henley project or developed versions of the house-car preoccupation, there is a search for finesse in the line, the shading, the sheer beauty of what we see. When publishing the odd item, he will negotiate hard to have the best version published—and why not? Well, this document is there to rescue us—friends, analysts, or new converts who inevitably will pick away, trying to fathom the tantalizingly not-quite-fathomable in his work. Yet such a book can be deceptive in its wish to explain overall significance rather than merely track the artist’s own priorities. This book is, of course, very concerned about “positioning” Michael Webb, and invites the late Lebbeus Woods to try and get inside Webb’s mind—which Woods does, invoking such dangerous allies as Faust, Freud, and God. As a fellow explorer, Woods has some insight into the significance of memory within the process, with both Webb and Woods dreaming their way in and out of it. The book presents a straightforward and rather useful chronology from Kenneth Frampton that embeds the experience of British and American culture alongside Webb’s work. Michael Sorkin and Mark Wigley are brought in, too—brilliant wordsmiths and provocateurs. But just how much “positioning” must we have? This is a tiresome tendency of books that are either too nervous just to back a masterful piece of work and let it sail, or wanting to show off just how many scholars they can pack into 200 pages. This brings us back to the narrative of the real author once again. The caption-like texts are revealing: disarmingly frank about motives when, for a drawing of the Leicester Square ramps, Webb explains, “A few dyeline prints were initially attached to the board. All of them faded to the mustard yellow you see here. So to complete the drawing, coloured paper of a similar hue had to be added.” As if this mattered. But of course, it did matter—the yellowness being part of the experience of the drawing as well as the information it gives about the ramps. Or consider Webb's near-apology for being painstaking with a plan drawing of the drive-in house, as he notes, “I am interested in the fact that during the reversing procedure the two front wheels are not parallel, hence the energy expended in the drawing on explaining why.” This underscores a delicious piece of draughtsmanship in which precise geometric lines of direction are laid over sweet exposures of steering armatures in plan and, of course, impeccably drawn tires—all 20 of them. It could be called something like “poetic pedantry,” and in fact, it is the amalgam of invention and art. So what is it really all about? Fifty-five or more years of exploration track over the territory of the automobile-environment, picking up on personal space devices, started by the famous Cushicle and the Henley, or the Temple Island project that examines and reexamines linear perspective projection. Out of these and back again, he has contrived scenes, séances, gadgets, vehicles, trajectories, procedures, and—rarely—buildings. In fact, only two of the projects are buildings per se, and these are the earliest of the projects. But my—what buildings. The Furniture Manufacturers’ Association at High Wycombe was a “set” project at the then Regent Street Polytechnic. Its “rack and tubes” architecture was stunning, moving the architectural vocabulary miles forward. It still gives Webb creative food for thought. The Sin Centre for Leicester Square (his “thesis” work) is, by his own admission, a form of folly: taking the thrill of a car driving up and zigzagging around inside a lacework of a building. Again he tracks back and over the mechanism. Yet again, it resembles no other piece of architecture, and thus snippets of it can be found in Gunther Domenig’s Vienna Z-Bank, bits of Richard Rogers’s work, and anywhere that the “high tech” conversation crops up. So having created these total statements, Webb seems to have moved into the foreground with an ever more internalized pursuit, not as crazy or agoraphobic as Scottish artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay, but rather taking the day-to-day world as an amusing but irrelevant background. Read, and he willingly invites you inside. Two Journeys Edited by Ashley Simone with essays by Kenneth Frampton, Michael Sorkin, Mark Wigley, and Lebbeus Woods Lars Müller Publishers
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Here are our top 2018 summer architecture reads

As we turn the corner into summer, it’s time to kick back and dive into a book, whether you’re at the beach, drink in hand, or stuck inside an air-conditioned office. A suite of books about architecture, planning, and urbanism are slated to drop in the coming months, and AN has compiled a list of our favorite page-turners. They range from behind-the-scenes looks into how Disneyland was planned and built, to essays on urbanism, and mellow photo collections of a modernist California. What Goes Up: The Right and Wrongs to the City Michael Sorkin Verso $24.72 In this collection of essays, architecture writer (and AN contributor) Michael Sorkin tracks the conversion of New York City into a playground for starchitects, starting with Bloomberg and moving into the present day. But if What Goes Up has an antagonist, it’s most likely embodied in now-President Trump, who Sorkin views as a product of everything wrong with development in New York. The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids Alexandra Lange Bloomsbury Publishing $22.77 – June 12, 2018 release How does design shape our formative years? What did Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller play with when they were growing up? What distinguishes a “good” toy from a “bad” toy, and who decides which is which? Through equal parts history and case studies, Lange deftly explains how children went from playing with blocks to Minecraft, and how the play environment shapes a child’s formative years. Modernism's Visible Hand: Architecture and Regulation in America Michael Osman University of Minnesota Press $30.00 When did the modern age begin? The advent of refrigeration and climate control allowed for the mass distribution of food, the rise of tall buildings, and new advances in occupancy comfort. With so many more options for controlling the interior environment, architects took on a much more important role; and as Osman argues, played a major part in introducing the regulations that would standardize the centuries to come. Landscape of Faith: Interventions Along the Mexican Pilgrimage Route Tatiana Bilbao, photos by Iwan Baan Lars Müller Publishers $32.25 Two million pilgrims annually travel the treacherous mountain path through Jalisco, Mexico to reach a shrine to the Virgin of Talpa. Can a path, typically considered a liminal space, have its own vernacular, culture, and history? In Landscape of Faith, Bilbao and Baan explore the temporary and permanent structures, institutions, and landscapes that pilgrims must pass on their 110-mile journey. Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability Eyal Weizman MIT Press $35.95 With Forensic Architecture’s shortlisting for the prestigious Turner Prize, the research group/activists/art collective has gotten more media attention than ever. In this recently released monograph, founder Eyal Weizman details how group uses a mixture of architecture, forensic science, and crowdsourced information to reconstruct crimes scenes and obfuscated timelines. Forensic Architecture includes a mix of case studies as well as step-by-step details into how the group conducts an investigation. Walt Disney's Disneyland Chris Nichols TASCHEN $50.00 –September 12, 2018 release Disneyland represents a dream-like ideal for many, but how was the city-within-a-city actually designed and constructed? Nichols pulls back the curtain on Walt Disney’s little-seen inspirations, sketches, original documentation and more from the park’s conception. The design and buildout, opening, and the continued life of the park ever since are presented in context alongside a California that was changing around it. California Captured: Mid-Century Modern Architecture, Marvin Rand Pierluigi Serraino, Emily Bills, Sam Lubell Phaidon Press $40.19 Keep the California vibes going with California Captured, an index of photographer Marvin Rand’s mid-century work. Rand captured photos of the modernist masters at their peak (including buildings by Craig Ellwood, Louis Kahn, and Frank Lloyd Wright) and exported the “Mid-Century California” aesthetic all over the world. The Architecture of Closed Worlds: Or, What Is the Power of Shit? Lydia Kallipoliti Lars Müller Publishers and Storefront for Art and Architecture $32.20 - August 28, 2018 release Closed systems, whether they be a submarine or an office, are designed as self-sustaining environments. In The Architecture of Closed Worlds, Kallipoliti tracks the evolution of closed environment structures from 1928 to the present through 39 case studies of cutting edge prototypes. The relevance of the enclosed space extends into sustainable design and ecological concerns, as designing a self-sustaining system often forces architects and designers to expand their environmental consciousness. Every book on this list was selected independently by AN‘s team of editors. If you buy something via the embedded links, AN will earn a commission. 
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How can architecture criticism give everyone a seat at the table?

As Christopher Hawthorne moves on from the Los Angeles Times and as new forms of criticism proliferate, we asked the architecture community what the role of the critic is today, and what it might be missing. What do you see as the role of the critic in architecture today? Why is it important? What aspects of architecture are not being addressed today by critics? What are the problems with criticism today? Here are the responses we received from those who felt that architecture criticism is inherently political and should be approached as such, from across the country and abroad. How can women and people of color be included in the conversation when the field has typically buried their voices? This article was originally published in our May print issue, and was preceded by a selection of answers from architecture critics themselves and those who thought that the internet has fundamentally changed the field. Nolan Boomer Arts critic and editor of Take Shape. “At the core of architectural criticism is the realization that setting is not the backdrop of humankind’s story, but actually a character that shapes its plot...some of the best criticism appears in other genres like fiction and poetry, but it often isn’t considered as such.” Alice Twemlow Head of Design Curating and Writing Masters at Design Academy Eindhoven and professor of design at The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague. “If you take architecture to be less about individual buildings, and more about the structural, political, and conceptual framing of the shifting relationship between public and private space, (which I do) then the role of the architecture critic merges with that of the social critic and, in that respect, is immensely important. When that framing is thoughtful and brilliant, she should make sure we hear about it; and when the framing is uninformed or unfair, she should also make sure we hear about it. She should remind us of the past, respond to the current situation, and anticipate or lead future moves. She should advocate for the right of every public citizen to access the aesthetic and practical benefits of the built environment whilst being protected from it failings and harmful effects. And if that sounds like hard work, and that it encroaches on the territory of urban planning, social politics, environmental science, ethics, and philosophy, that’s because it is, and it does.” Mitch McEwen Assistant professor at Princeton University School of Architecture and partner of A(n) Office. “Architecture has made so many heroic and visionary claims, and also failed so many people for so long. The architecture critic can sort through these claims and failures and new potentials, both for us and for a wider public.” Mark Foster Gage Principal of Mark Foster Gage Architects and the assistant dean of the Yale School of Architecture. “I think there is an old notion of a critic who tells you if something is good or not. This is outdated and it probably comes from [Gene] Siskel and [Roger] Ebert on television, watching movies—‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down.’ Here the critic is an arbiter of taste. It’s not helpful: it’s about judgment rather than a new opening of discussion. It’s a closure, stopping conversation cold. Once you call a movie bad, why discuss it? I believe a critic is a person that opens people’s eyes as to WHY certain things are notable in various disciplines (or outside of them). A critic should be opening conversations, prompting curiosity, and inciting interest. I also think it is the responsibility of the critic to focus on contemporary work and issues—‘the new’ is always in most need of support and discussion, especially among those who feel intimidated or uncomfortable about it. This is what the critic is supposed to do, make it possible to bring more people into the conversation about any type of work. They are stewards of curiosity and interest, not judges of success or failure.” Enrique Ramirez Writer and architectural historian based in Brooklyn. “This question presumes that criticism is important to the discipline and practice of architecture. To say so is to admit to a certain kind of hubris. Criticism is not needed, for no matter if critics decide to take on the mantle of an investigative magistrate and try to shed light on a particular issue, to watch different actors scurry about once their particular malfeasances become exposed, to say: ‘Aha, Architecture...YOU’VE BEEN CAUGHT’...this is criticizing, but is it criticism? I used to think, ‘Yes, it is.’ It’s not. An architectural critic may tell you, ‘Look at this building ...Modernism is EVIL!’ or ‘Postmodernism is TRITE!’ or ‘Everything coming out of UCLA or Michigan is MAGENTA and CORNFLOWER BLUE!’ Okay, but so what? If that is the mode of engagement that architectural critics prefer, then I want no part of it. As critics, we need to look at colleagues in other fields to see how they advocate for the cultural relevance of their object of inquiry, for this is at the heart of criticism. Architectural criticism seems stuck in a kind [of] mode that conflates ‘criticism’ with ‘criticizing,’ one that privileges the dressing down of a building over everything else. Architecture lives in the world at large, and as critics, we need to state how this is the case.” José Esparza Chong Cuy Associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. “I believe that an informed public opinion of what needs to be celebrated and denounced is more important than ever. Contemporary life is shaped by so many invisible mechanisms that need to be exposed to the day-to-day eye. There are so many things at play regulated by sociopolitical, economic, and environmental factors in the spaces we inhabit that we need to have thought out critical positions to be able to act accordingly, both socially and professionally. Having a better understanding of these invisible mechanisms could potentially open new ways of operating. Moreover, I believe that all critical mediums should make an attempt to cover rural environments. It is clear that city-living is not the only option, but critics should make an effort to cover stories about rural life and the rural landscapes to connect the practice or architecture to these settings as well. We tend to forget how interconnected the rural and urban contexts are, and the critic should use its platform to inform how one setting feeds off the other and vice versa.” Bika Rebek Founding principal of Some Place, and an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia GSAPP. “A master of expansive writing reaching all fringes, and perhaps my favorite critic is Karl Kraus. While architecture is just one of his wide-ranging interests, his writing is personal, angry, funny, extremely timely and unconcerned with the consequences. Contemporary architectural criticism would benefit from this fearlessness and sense of humor. With more pointed controversy, critics could attract wider audiences and become part of an age-old dialogue, spinning the web further through the lens of our time.” Jesse LeCavalier  Designer, writer, and educator whose work explores the architectural and urban implications of contemporary logistics. He is the author of The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment, assistant professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and the Daniel Rose Visiting Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Architecture. “Foucault’s appeal to a kind of criticism focused on curiosity, attention, stewardship, and imagination remains, for me, an appealing statement about the potential role of the critic: ‘I can’t help but dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes—all the better. All the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination.’ While thoughtful and perceptive engagement with buildings will always be important, I feel like now more than ever we need to develop an expanded understanding the larger forces shaping the built environment, from our own consumer choices to larger policy transformations, their implications, and ways to engage them.” Kate Wagner Creator of McMansion Hell and a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University researching concert hall design in transition from late- to post-modernism. “Architecture is inherently political on its own! While the city is relevant to the building, we should avoid using the city as a crutch.” Fred Scharmen Teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning. His first book, Space Settlements, will be out later this year. “I saw a joke on Twitter the other week that said: ‘Every academic discipline has another academic discipline which watches them, occasionally making sarcastic comments.’ For architecture, criticism gets even weirder, because this shadow discipline is supposed to do at least two more other things: it’s meant to be internalized, so architects should be working and self-critiquing at almost the same time; and it’s also supposed to be outward-facing, to explain what’s going on inside the discipline to an external audience. So somehow we’re all meant to be our own worst and best critics, hecklers, and narrators, all at once. This situation is messed up.” Peggy Deamer Professor of architecture at Yale University, an architect practicing in New York, and content coordinator of the Architecture Lobby. “The role of the critic is to inform both the public and the discipline about what aesthetic, economic, cultural, or social value is potentially embedded in that discipline and point out examples that are good or bad in relation to that potential. Critics aren’t identifying the connection between how we in the discipline work—with illegal, economically naive, sexist, and formally myopic protocols—and the poverty of what we are asked to work on (rich peoples second houses; the occasional private institution) and the consequent lack of respect and financial stability.” David Grahame Shane Adjunct professor in the Urban Design program at Columbia GSAPP. “Architectural criticism is not important as there is so little architecture of quality produced today by large firms or clients to consider. Look at Hudson Yards or the World Trade Center, and weep. The profession is BIM-ed and value-engineered to death. Public commissions and competitions that once gave openings to critics and young firms have disappeared along with small bookstores and magazines. Chat rooms and the academy remain as hermetic critical fortresses with their own private codes and handshakes. Sadly public intellectuals and critics are a disappearing breed, dying off in the new architectural ecology, occasionally spotlighted by museums as avant-garde and remote insights. It’s not a pretty picture, but surely in the future people will regain a sense of shared communities in the city and countryside and a new breed of architectural critics and architectural practice will re-emerge.” Michael Sorkin Architect, author, educator and founding principal of Michael Sorkin Studio. “The critic’s duty is resistance!  As the country careens toward full-on fascism, its environment assailed and warfare looming, we must defend the social architectures of civility and not lose ourselves in the artistic weeds.  A critic who fails to assail Trump, supports him.” Kelsey Keith Editor-in-Chief of Curbed. “Architecture as a study and as a practice has done a lot to isolate itself. I think that the built environment matters so much because it affects and influences people in the places they live. I speak not as an academic or as a critical theorist, but as someone who genuinely loves all this, wants it to be better, and believes that end is achieved in part via criticism. An architecture critic’s role in society today is to contextualize—whether the point is to educate, or entertain, or satisfy some curiosity: ‘Why are A-frames suddenly so popular again? Why is it important to preserve the work of a rare woman project lead from a midcentury architecture firm?’ Most critics are too busy broadcasting their own well-formed opinions to actually listen to the zeitgeist. Dialogue is important, but so is listening to others—as a knowledge-gathering tool or when their perspectives differ from your own.” Abdalilah Qutub (Abdul Qutub)   Co-founder of Socially Condensed Fully-Built Enviromemes. “The role of the architectural critic today goes beyond the immediate issues surrounding a building, but also includes the larger ethical practices and impacts in which the participants in the architectural field might be involved. There are two main themes that are not really being fully addressed today: Workers’ rights issues and the overwhelming whiteness of the field. The dominance of white men now only further keeps alive the whiteness of the field that has been passed on by previous generations. Recent efforts within the #MeToo movement and the allegations that have recently come out against Richard Meier further reveal some of the underlying power structures in the field and how they are being abused. Criticism alone is not going to solve these problems without the provocation of direct action from the architectural and associated fields (strikes, demonstrations, and protests).” Nicholas Korody Co-founder of the experimental architecture practice Adjustments Agency, co-curator of the architecture store domesti.city, and editor-in-chief of the architecture publication Ed. “The role of the critic today is first and foremost to draw attention to the architecture of architecture—that is, the ways in which ‘architecture’ is not a given, but rather something constructed and therefore mutable. Within the discipline and profession, we take for granted that certain things, from exploitative labor practices to rampant sexism and even assault, come with the territory. They do not have to. Alongside this, we accept with little criticality the complicity of architecture with capital, with the end result that not only do we now design only for the select few, we also help fuel the conversion of our cities into playgrounds for speculative finance. This relationship is historically specific, and the role of the critic is to both point this out and to imagine alternatives. Critics today tend toward the myopic. They see a form and not what’s behind it: labor relations, environmental degradation, capital accumulation, displacement of people. Every act of construction has cascading effects far beyond the building site. Critics must contend with this. Broadly speaking, it is a conservative field. Many supposedly liberal or even leftist critics are in fact advocating for a maintenance of the status quo, which is a violent position to take. There are far too few voices demanding truly radical change within the discipline. Criticism is itself a form of practice, a way of imagining possibilities where others see none. Integral to that is looking far beyond the discipline, far beyond buildings. Most importantly, critics must take positions—albeit ones capable of change—and fight for them. Political neutrality does not exist. A good critic loves architecture so much they despise everything about it.” Ana María León Trained as an architect, León is a researcher and architecture historian at the University of Michigan. “Critics link the discipline not only to a broader audience, but also to larger concerns that often escape architecture’s purview. If good histories take a critical view of the past, good critiques are able to historicize the present. Our current political moment urgently needs more critical voices. Critics are still overwhelmingly white, male, and Western. This is not to say that white, male, Western critics are unable to look beyond their own identities, but representation matters, and a diversity of voices tends to insure a diversity of opinions and points of view. I would love it if say, The Architect’s Newspaper reached out to critics in South America, Africa, Asia, and asked them to review events and buildings there for a broader public.” Eva Franch i Gilabert Architect, educator, curator, founder of Office of Architectural Affairs (OOAA), current executive director of the Storefront for Art and Architecture and future director of the Architectural Association. “A critic is the historian of the present, or the present future, or as Reyner Banham’s intellectual biography points out, of the immediate future. To understand the power of architecture, unveil it, and transmit it to a larger audience is the most benevolent image of the critic, but the most seminal and most needed is to allow the field to find positions beyond obsessions; to position design culture in relation to the most important issues affecting contemporary culture and the built environment. Any critic needs to go beyond the cliché, the commonplace assumptions behind good design, and understand radical, powerful designs that are able to produce more equitable societies. A critic that is able to read beyond press releases, instant gratifications, three minute impressions of what should be and help us all imagine what actions, ideas, and form could be. The problems with criticism today are the same as the ones with architecture: it is extremely hard to go beyond client-oriented work, to produce designs that question the status quo and the forces at play. The making and buying of history in the PR age is an issue to be investigated thoroughly. It is extremely hard for editors, critics, and architects to keep a critical distance. While this might not be any different than in times past, at least I think there is now a more transparent understanding of sponsored articles, and the influence and power of certain lobbies. The real difficulty of being a critic is that we do not have editorial structures that support criticism in its full flesh. As in many other fields false criticism, sensationalism, scandalous headlines, ...are more in vogue than rigorous - maybe less sensationalist- forms of criticism. The problem is that bad criticism is more profitable in terms of business models; good criticism needs of idea models, less business models....”

Michael Sorkin Studio and Terreform: Metrophysics

Architecture lives as both object and aggregation: buildings and cities. If the pursuit of an environment that is sustainable, equitable, beautiful, and rich with difference is common at every scale, the valence of these values varies by situation. Metrophysics foregrounds projects rooted in the urban, including buildings and sites designed with both practical and polemical intent. The work is from a team that operates as a “traditional” architectural studio responding to clients and as a research practice that formulates its own agenda of investigation and intervention. In 2005, Michael Sorkin Studio underwent a mitosis with the founding of Terreform. Given a long history of activist work in a variety of registers—including design, advocacy, and writing—there’d been a long simmering desire to find a form of practice that was more transparent with the non-commercial—even utopian—projects and ambitions that engaged us. Not wanting to give up the prospect of “ordinary” building, however, we formalized the conceptual split into a “straight” architectural practice and an organization doing research, unsolicited interventions, publishing, and propositions. The studio works in a single spirit with a focus on questions of city, on its morphology, systems of equity, and metabolic behavior. What Terreform has learned over the years from New York City (Steady) State—an elaborate speculation meant to determine just how autonomous our city can become—informs “official” projects Sorkin Studio has undertaken in Wuhan, Xi’an, or Istanbul and vice versa. Each side serves as the lab for the other but we’re all on the same page: the iron fiscal curtain between the two entities is a membrane that’s completely porous to ideas. Michael Sorkin is a distinguished professor and director of the Graduate Urban Design Program.
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Ecological urbanism to the rescue? Michael Sorkin Studio and Terreform explore green cities at SCI-Arc

In the exhibition Metrophysics, New York-based Michael Sorkin Studio and Terreform (both helmed by Sorkin) have brought their portfolio of eco-futurist-tinged urban designs to Los Angeles’s Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles, displaying a sprawling retrospective of the symbiotic architectural groups’ collective output from over the years. The work presented by Sorkin and Terreform—the latter of which is a 501(c)3 established in 2005 as a self-described “ ‘friend of the court’ dedicated to raising urban expectations and advocating for innovative and progressive ideas as widely as possible”—traces a broad stylistic and conceptual arc across time spanning from the mid-1990s through today. That arc hewed closely to the always-shifting focus of other ecologically-minded architectural firms: From dramatic landscape design in the 1990s to embodying technologically-derived formalism in the early 2000s and, more recently, a hybrid between the two. The exhibition, displayed neatly and semi-chronologically along a series of mounted display boards set atop wooden sawhorses, aims for grandiosity in content if not format. The collected schemes feature board after board of idealized eco-utopias. Some are depicted with Kazimir Malevich-inspired geometric abstraction, verdant, photo-realistic eye wash, or as techno-futurist blobitecture. According to the firm’s website, the body of work acts as a metaphorical extension of Terreform’s ongoing project, New York City (Steady) State, a “comprehensive investigation into urban self-sufficiency…intended to raise issues and propose solutions for cities around the world that seek to take radical measures to secure their respiration and autonomy and to achieve a more sustainably democratic polity, founded in the local.” As a result, each project presented uses the underlying notions of New York City (Steady) State to speculate on the potential for ecologically-minded urbanism in other locales. The works attempt to imbue their architecture with a sense of cosmological meaning by fusing the naturalistic geometries spawned by ecological, parametric design with old-school New Urbanism. New York City is, in fact, featured heavily across the collected projects, with a thoughtful and dramatically rendered vision for a transit hub in the Bronx from 2002 and the firm’s proposal for a temporary enclosure for the rubble at the former World Trade Center site from 2001 providing eloquent and compelling visions that stand somewhat outside some of the exhibition’s more general themes. Ex nihilo East Asian towns and business districts are also featured prominently in the collection of work, with the Penang Peaks project from 2004 (a horseshoe-shaped cluster of mushroom-shaped towers gathered around a body of water), Skyscrapers with Chinese Characteristics (an exploration that translates Sorkin’s collection of “scholar’s rocks” into tall buildings), and an Ecological Golf Resort for Australia from 2014 best showcasing the firms’ ability to generate a sort of contextually-based, ecologically-driven formalism. Central to the groups’ experiments are several notions due to be tested in coming years, namely that cities are in fact resilient and nimble democratic systems that can countenance the ever-growing list of maladies they face, including climate change, growing income disparities, and the ever-increasing flow of antiseptic global capital. Sorkin’s team implies with its research that both new and existing cities have the potential to overcome these stresses, but only if thoughtfully and ecologically designed. This will certainly be a challenge as a new era of incompetent authoritarianism takes hold globally. Terreform’s showcase at SCI-Arc, with its broad stylistic mantle and critical urban approach, has the potential to inject a dose of inspiration for a university in transition and city searching for a new moral compass. The cornucopia of drawing styles alone should provide fertile ground for the current generation of students hungry to cut and paste their way toward new modes of formal expression. And though the works in question vary greatly in terms of representational techniques, muses, and thought bubbles, Sorkin’s detail-oriented gaze remains consistent, whether it involves the tiny white ribbons representing pigeons drawn onto the firm’s Bronx transit plans or the technicolor landscapes of the Weed, Arizona project. The question—for after the exhibition closes—is whether SCI-Arc students will be inspired by techno-ecology and what a transition from designing at an urban scale to designing ecologically-driven urbanism might look like moving forward. --- Metrophysics SCI-Arc Gallery 960 East 3rd Street Los Angeles, CA 90013 Through December 4
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Helsinki rejects Guggenheim outpost

Late last night the Helsinki city council rejected a proposal to fund a new Guggenheim Helsinki Museum; the final tally was 53 to 32. Despite its initial failures in securing funding from the Finnish government, up until this vote the Helsinki Guggenheim Museum was still a real possibility. However, it seems this rejection has finally capped years of controversy. First proposed in 2011, the Guggenheim Helsinki has been the subject of years of back-and-forth between the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the Finnish government over who would pay for the proposed museum's cost and maintenance. Much like the Guggenheim Bilbao, the museum would've featured parts of the foundation's modern art collection on a rotating basis, along with works by local artists. The foundation argued that tourism revenue would outweigh the government's funding. However, critics argued that the Guggenheim Foundation was seeking to spread its international brand at the unfair expense of Finnish taxpayers (and that Helsinki already had a robust arts scene). In 2014, the foundation launched an international competition to pick a design and win over the Finns in the process. Simultaneously, a competition formed by the proposed museum's critics, dubbed The Next Helsinki, sought alternative proposals. The Next Helsinki competition announced its winners in April, 2015; that same June the Guggenheim named Paris-based Moreau Kusunoki Architectes as their winner. Then, in September 2016, the incumbent and fiscally conservative Finnish government said that the museum's costs were too high—an estimated $138 million. The project was revived when, on this past November 11, Helsinki's city board members narrowly gave it the greenlight with a new funding scheme: The city would cough up approximately $85 million while the Guggenheim Helsinki foundation would provide the rest. However, their vote—which was a marginal 8 to 7—was not binding. Last night's vote from the 85-member strong city council, however, has nixed that. Biennale Books co-founder Laura Iloniemi told The Architect's Newspaper that the city councilor's concerns included the museum's appearance ("coal pile," "bunker," "inappropriate for the site"), the value of the proposed harbor site, the Guggenheim's association with workers' rights issues in Abu Dhabi (the location of one of their outposts), doubts about the Guggenheim's tourism forecasts, and frustration with the foundation's lack of transparency and forceful lobbying. Those in favor said the Guggenheim Helsinki was a unique opportunity that would increase tourism and the city's cultural offerings while forging a stronger trans-Atlantic connection. According to The New York Times, the Helsinki Council communications department released a statement after the vote, which said “The main objections to the project presented by Council members included the project’s excessive cost for the Finnish taxpayer; inadequate private funding; and the proposed site, which was considered too valuable for the project.” Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, told the Times that “I suppose that it was a reaction to a sense of engulfing internationalism, or a reaction against globalism.... That’s how I’m explaining it to myself.” Even as the Guggenheim Helsinki fades away, it leaves behind a legacy of alternative proposals: Urban Research, the imprint of Next Helsinki co-organizer Terreform, has announced the publication of a book featuring the Next Helsinki competition's designs. Dubbed The Helsinki Effect: Public Alternatives to the Guggenheim Model of Culture-Driven Development, it's due out in December and available for pre-order. The Helsinki Effect was edited by Checkpoint Helsinki board member Terike Haapoja, G.U.L.F. editor Andrew Ross, and Terreform founder Michael Sorkin; each editor has also contributed a chapter (Sorkin's is titled "WALMART COMES TO HELSINKI"). It looks at the submissions as a way of enlivening public discourse on "the role of culture in civic health and economic development," the consequences of which stretch beyond Finland and its capital. The Helsinki Effect also includes essays from leading urbanists, artists, and architects that touch on The Next Helsinki competition's significance to contemporary urban principles. Prominent Finnish architect and Next Helsinki juror Juhani Pallasmaa contributed a chapter to the book; in it he forcefully argues against the public's funding of Guggenheim's Helsinki outpost. He also skewers the Guggenheim Foundation's winning entries:
The awarded entries hardly acknowledge the unique historical narrative, character, and quality of Helsinki, or the adjacency of the neoclassical part of the city. All the awarded projects are self-centered in various ways, and lack an understanding of and respect for urban traditions, which altogether belong to the most valuable heritage of culture. All the winning entries are rather detached from the context and have little, if any, meaningful interaction with their neighbors.
Speaking to The Architects' Journal, Pallasmaa described the venture as a "ruthless business presented as a cultural project," calling for taxpayers money to better spent on furthering Finnish artistic culture. Finnish politician Anders Adlercreutz, contrasting the Guggenheim Helsinki with Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao, said "I simply can’t feel any excitement when viewing the winning proposal... It feels like a lost opportunity altogether, an entry that does very little to enhance the whole harbor area, that doesn’t contribute to the public space around it and that frankly looks quite out of place."
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Michael Sorkin urges Lucas Museum to stay in Chicago and revitalize the city's South Side

On June 24, George Lucas decided to move his proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts from Chicago. (You can read our full coverage of the Museum's saga, which began in San Francisco, here.) New York-based architect Michael Sorkin has penned a letter to George Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson urging the museum to stay in Chicago but in inhabit a site south of the city and formerly used by U.S. Steel. A full copy of that letter, and its accompanying images, appears below: Dear George Lucas and Mellody Hobson, Come back to Chicago! In no other city will your museum provide remotely comparable stimulus and balm. While I was a supporter of your original site and an enthusiast for the design, I’m writing urgently with a suggestion for another location that could solve many problems for both you and for the City of Chicago, yielding a far superior result. It’s the 600 acres formerly occupied by U.S. Steel, jutting magnificently into the lake, engaging panoramic views to the Loop, bounded by Lake Shore Drive, and served by METRA. More, it is completely clear and ready to build. No need to tear down a huge building, no need to back away from the lake, no need to take park land, no need to cram into an over- crowded architectural zoo! As you surely know, a highly ambitious—and highly expensive—plan to build an enormous residential and commercial project (which briefly offered a site for the Obama Library) was, after years of effort, abandoned in March and the site is again orphaned: we see this as divine serendipity! Following this failed effort to develop the site in collaboration with McCaffery Interests, U.S. Steel (their stock is tanking and they have no interest in acting directly as developers) is doubtless eager to be rid of the place and some quick and creative collaboration could yield remarkable results—results that can be realized far faster than starting out afresh on the west coast, risking further delays. Here are some reasons a return to Chicago makes such compelling sense: 1. Your museum can inspire a new institutional and public cluster on the far south side of Chicago to rival the crowded complex in which you’d hoped to build and add a gleaming new pearl in the city’s civic necklace. 2. Your museum can be the fulcrum for a dramatic increase in the space of the city’s parks, leveraging as many as 300 additional acres of waterfront green space. 3. Your museum could go miles in addressing the abiding north-south split that so diminishes Chicago’s aspirations to equity and social justice and in affirming your well-known commitment to bettering the lives of the city’s poor and people of color. 4. Your museum could catalyze an enormous transformation in the quality of life for nearby neighborhoods starved for educational, cultural, environmental, and economic development. 5. Your museum could be a beacon and a symbol, a phoenix rising above a wasteland. Indeed, this would be far better than trying to squeeze in among an already dense and disparate group of buildings that will only compromise the power of its vision and originality. Here’s a scenario: 1. The City of Chicago acquires the northern portion of the site from U.S. Steel. This might happen through purchase, condemnation, or—best of all—through donation by a corporation for which the land now represents more of a burden than an asset. 2. The City of Chicago commits to the development of an extensive enlargement of its park system with a design that combines local needs with a great South Side Chicago Community Art Park. 3. The City of Chicago—or you yourself—facilitates the operation of a new transit system: a fantastic fleet of Millennium Ferries linking Navy Pier, Millennium Park, the Museum Campus, the South Shore Cultural Center, and the great new South Side Chicago Community Art Park. What an attraction! What a unifier! 4. A task force comprised of municipal, institutional, civic, and community organizations plans for and array of synergistic institutions to cluster with the Lucas Museum, including (for starters) a South Chicago Community Center of Narrative Arts, an amazing lakeside amphitheater (Yo Kanye!), an enlarged South Shore Cultural Center, a Railway Museum, The Mellody Hobson Institute of Environmental Research and Technology as part of a reinvigorated Chicago State University, an all-weather amusement park, and a renewable energy complex drawn from the valuable work done as part of the McCaffrey proposal. 5. You build your project according to its original design. It will look so much better here, offer excellent access to an enlarged constituency of visitors—coming from north, south, and west—and do so much more good. 6. With this recreational, athletic, educational, environmental, and cultural complex assured, the attractiveness of the southern portion of the larger site for development will surely re-emerge, providing further resources for the community and an enlarged tax base for the city to support its parks, schools, and infrastructure. I’m writing you because of my deep admiration for the desire you both have expressed to make your museum extremely accessible, especially to those communities who have been so ignored by traditional cultural institutions. By building your project on this waiting site in South Chicago you will dramatically assert this principle of inclusion in the strongest terms and offer this neglected part of the city tremendous dignity and the opportunity to create its own narratives. And, such a move can catalyze a true people’s campus and park, a complex of sympathetic and galvanizing landscapes and institutions that will create authentic pride of place for so many who feel they’ve simply been left out. We are more than ready to help make such a plan. In fact, we’ve taken the liberty of sketching something of what this might look like. Please be generous and bold! Take this opportunity to return to Chicago with a determination both to build a superb museum and to make a transformative contribution to a city I know you both deeply love. We stand ready to offer any further assistance—and encouragement—you may require! Yours Sincerely, Michael Sorkin President, Terreform (501(c)3)