“Fierce and brilliant” architect and critic Michael Sorkin dies of coronavirus

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Tributes have poured in for architect and critic Michael Sorkin, who has died aged 71 of complications caused by Covid-19.

Based in New York, Sorkin headed architect Michael Sorkin Studio and was president of non-profit research group Terreform.

His death triggered shock and an outpouring of warm tributes from architects, critics and writers around the world.

“He was a supremely gifted, astute and acerbic writer”

“I am heartbroken. This is a great loss,” tweeted New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman. “He was so many things. He was a supremely gifted, astute and acerbic writer. He wrote with moral force about big ideas and about the granular experience of life at the level of the street.”

“Whether or not one agreed with Michael Sorkin didn’t matter in the end,” added Chicago Tribune critic Blair Kamin. “He was a great activist critic – fearless, unafraid to challenge received wisdom or powerful figures, and, because of his wit and insight, a pleasure to read.”

“The architecture world has lost a brilliant mind,” said Harriet Harriss, dean of New York’s Pratt Institute School of Architecture.

Financial Times architecture correspondent Edwin Heathcote described Sorkin as a “fierce and brilliant critic, perhaps the best”.

“No one wrote about architecture like Michael Sorkin”

Graphic designer Michael Beirut said: “No one wrote about architecture like Michael Sorkin. I miss him already”.

“Damn,” said writer Geoff Manaugh. “Always loved this from him: ‘Fish are symmetrical but only until they wiggle. Our effort is to measure the space between the fish and the wiggle. This is the study of a lifetime.’

Sorkin was an architect, a writer and the director of the graduate programme in urban design at City College of New York (CCNY).

He had also taught at a number of institutions including London’s Architectural Association and American schools Cooper Union, Harvard University and Columbia University.

Sorkin served as architecture critic New York paper The Village Voice

He was architecture critic for New York news and culture paper The Village Voice for 10 years and contributed to Architectural Record, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

“That’s so sad,” said Design Museum curator Justin McGuirk. “His writing, especially the Village Voice columns, was a big early influence. Remember fondly him drinking me under the table in Greenwich Village. RIP Michael.”

At the time of his death, he was also serving as the principal of the Terreform Center for Advanced Urban Research, which he founded in 2005, and editor-in-chief of its magazine UR (Urban Research).

He also wrote and edited a total of 20 books, with the most recent including All Over The Map: Writing on Buildings and Cities and Twenty Minutes in Manhattan.

Sorkin was born in Washington DC in 1948. He gained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1970 and completed a master’s in architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology four years later. He died on Thursday 26 March 2020.

His death follows that of Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti, designer of Palermo’s ZEN neighbourhood and the renovation of Barcelona’s Olympic stadium, who died earlier this month aged of 92 of coronavirus.

Photo of Sorkin was posted to Twitter by Harriet Harriss.

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