Michael Sorkin: 250 things architects should know

“Two hundred and fifty things architects should know” is written in cheerful color lettering on the elegant light gray cover, and while you’re still wondering how it works, 250 things in such an easy format, you’ll be hooked on the first few pages removed from Michael Sorkin’s latest book. : Because this post is a compendium of teaching great architecture, haiku, so to speak, about the love of places where people feel comfortable. At the same time, it’s also an acknowledgment for this very reason: that the profession of architect is actually insane because it suggests that you can use your knowledge to design something that someone else will feel comfortable in, perhaps even for the rest of their life.

New York architect, urban planner, theorist and author Michael Sorkin died of coronavirus in New York in March 2020 at the age of 71.

(Photo: Antje Kunstmann Verlag GmbH)

New York architect Michael Sorkin has published several books. He has taught at some of the most prestigious architecture schools in the world, including New York, Harvard, and Vienna. Served as Architectural Critic for the American Weekly Magazine Nation Earlier to the legend village sound. Of course Michael Sorkin also designed the architecture, some buildings, but even more whole areas, which were distinguished by their greenery, mostly in Asia, especially in China.

Feeling of cold marble under the feet.

Most importantly, Sorkin had the gift of inspiring others in his specialty. The sad news of his unexpected death in March 2020 confirmed how much and how frustrating that ending was. Sorkin was one of the first victims of Corona in New York. The architecture community around the world mourned Sorkin’s death. The slender gray brochure is nothing short of his legacy.

Michael Sorkin: 250 Things Architects Should Know: How to lay bricks.

How to lay a brick.

(Photo: Antje Kunstmann Verlag GmbH)

How it works? Lists by Michael Sorkin. It’s a kind of choppy literature, a poem in 250 points, with tremendous intensity, but without being overpowering. This has a lot to do with Sorkin’s holistic approach to architecture. For example, the first thing he thinks architects should know is: “The feeling of cold marble under bare feet.” Followed by: “How to live with five strangers in a small room for six months.” And finally the third: “With the same strangers for a week in a lifeboat.” This alone illustrates the nature of Sorkin’s vision of architecture. The global refugee catastrophe shows, as well as the question of the necessary minimum of private withdrawal and intimacy, but also the beauty of precious materials that can be felt with one’s feet.

When reading, you almost automatically start designing in your head and thinking spatially

In fact, almost each of the 250 points can be significantly deepened, only the “difference between ghetto and neighbourhood”, which architects should know, should fill several meters of the gentrification literature. But the questions “where does the material come from” and “what is the comfortable gradient of stairs for a six-year-old” also relate to central discussions that the world of architecture should not have at the moment. Because how convenient is it for kids to pick up just one strand of this dense fabric, is the world really built? Not so long ago, while walking in Vienna, a camera at a height of one meter captured what exactly you can see from this perspective. The result was realistic even for a decent city like Vienna: because even there, children’s eyes often see only radiator caps and concrete walls.

Michael Sorkin: 250 Things Architects Should Know: The insulating properties of glass.

Insulating properties of glass.

(Photo: Antje Kunstmann Verlag GmbH)

It’s amazing how quickly Michael Sorkin, with his choppy style, turns his handbook reader into an architect – regardless of whether he’s actually one or not. But when you say “how to turn, design a corner, sit in a corner,” you almost automatically start designing in your head and thinking spatially. How was the corner designed, where you felt at home and safe? And where did it seem crowded and cramped to you instead?

Sorkin’s plastic language also aids in this thought experiment, and his ability to create a spatial situation in three or four words in a way one can personally imagine. At the same time, he succeeds in identifying the limitations of his job without slipping into laziness. Architects must also know “what the client (or client) wants, what the client thinks they want, what they need, and what the client can afford.” Anyone who has ever sat in a town hall meeting dealing with a public building project that isn’t that complicated, let’s say kindergarten, knows how many deep knowledge gaps they can vary.

Michael Sorkin: 250 things architects should know: How it feels to walk the Ramblas, Barcelona's most famous street.

How does it feel to walk the Ramblas, Barcelona’s most famous street?

(Photo: Antje Kunstmann Verlag GmbH)

Also amazing is what Michael Sorkin lists, all you can recommend to everyone, no matter what profession he pursues, because you should know about it anyway – for life – or at least have an idea of ​​it. How do we listen well, for example, to the rate of sea level rise or the housing issue of Friedrich Engels. At the same time, you won’t find any of the many technical terms in the handbook that still numb the most exciting debate about urban planning. Rather than taking up the concept of density and explaining at length what qualities it could have, Sorkin prefers to write what one should know: “What it feels like to walk down the Ramblas,” Barcelona’s most famous street.

His enthusiasm is quite contagious

Beyond 250 points one can feel a thought that was driven by great curiosity, both for the past – “how and why the pyramids were built” – and for the places of the present from Tianjin to Medellin and the question of how justice people and nature are expressed in architecture. Recommending “Jane Jacobs Inside and Out”, Sorkin wants architects to know “what the planet can handle” and “how many people in New York City receive rental subsidies.” The social question is important to him, the great social and environmental responsibility that goes hand in hand with architecture, regardless of whether the person designing it also sees it that way. But Sorkin also wants architects to jump over their shadows when he advises them to know the “joys of the suburbs” — and the “horrors.”

Michael Sorkin: 250 things architects should know: Three good lunch spots within walking distance.

Three good lunch places within walking distance.

(Photo: Antje Kunstmann Verlag GmbH)

Above all, Michael Sorkin wanted everyone to love their discipline as much as he did, because it also relates to the beauty of this world, the “azalea blooming season”, the “migration pattern of songbirds and the migratory behavior of other animals”. His enthusiasm for many things is so contagious that you immediately begin to google for the vast (Indian architectural theory about the correct placement, design and construction of lands and buildings according to the natural laws of the Five Elements), “what was wrong with running Fatehpur Sikri” and what was in the Pruitt Igwe settlement . Or who was Rachen Carson and Michael de Klerk, the latter a Dutch architect, former American biologist and ecologist from the start.

Michael Sorkin: 250 things architects should know: Michael Sorkin: two hundred and fifty things architects should know.  Verlag Antje Kunstmann, Munich 2022, 176 pages, €20.

Michael Sorkin: Two hundred and fifty things architects should know. Verlag Antje Kunstmann, Munich 2022, 176 pages, €20.

Michael Sorkin’s demands on architecture were enormous. This is not to say that his view of it was also not marked by the sense of humor one encounters again and again in cramped volume, as well as his joy of enjoying, in a good beer, for example, or in the “right mix of gin and martini.” Above all, Michael Sorkin shows just how crazy architecture is: he wants to make the world a better place.With this little book, at least Michael Sorkin has been able to do just that.

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