Michael Sorkin is the founding principal of New York–based Michael Sorkin Studio. As the architecture critic for The Nation, and the author and editor of countless books, he has served as an abiding conscience to the profession. One of the winners of this year's Collaborative Achievement Award, he responds to our architect's version of the Proust questionnaire here.
What is your greatest achievement?
What is the most memorable moment of your career?
I can’t remember.
What’s the best way to describe your career?
What was your most rewarding collaboration?
With [my wife] Joan. Ongoing for almost 40 years.
What’s your favorite essay/book/piece of criticism that you’ve written?
20 Minutes in Manhattan or Local Code or … When I look back at my writing all I can see are the infelicities and unmade arguments. I’m also a publisher [urpub.org] and those children all give me much joy.
What’s the one essay/book/piece of criticism you wish you hadn’t written?
What building/project best reflects your approach to architecture?
Weed in Arizona, New York City (Steady) State, Xiongan, and the Jellyfish. But all the projects reflect my (evolving) approach. I do love urbanism above all.
What’s the best description for your firm’s personality?
Keep calm and carry on!
What is the greatest ambition you have yet to achieve?
Eternal life although it’s too soon to know if I’ve achieved it.
What is your greatest regret?
Too painful to discuss.
What is the greatest challenge facing architects today?
What do you hope your legacy will be?
More kindness. Less evil.
When did you first realize you wanted to be an architect?
Well before I was 10 although I had no idea what being an architect actually was. I grew up in a modernist house with a next door neighbor (and surrogate grandfather) who had worked for the Olmsted Brothers and had an insanely beautiful garden. I loved construction sites and the big model ships at my father’s office. Overdetermined!
What jobs did your parents have?
Mother: social worker. Father: engineer.
What would you have been if not an architect?
What keeps you up at night?
It’s not the coffee, it’s the bunk!
What is your favorite building?
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your greatest extravagance?
When and where were you the happiest?
At the beach with my wife, tropical drink in hand, turquoise expanse beyond our feet, about to doze off midway through an excellent novel.
What is your greatest fear?
Snakes. And Facebook!
Which talent would you most like to have?
Playing the piano like Horowitz.
What does architectural misery mean?
Working for the man!
What does architectural happiness mean?
The good transmuted into the beautiful.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which artists do you most admire?
If you mean “fine” artists, here’s a partial, very western, list: af Klimt, Benglis, Bonheur, Bontecou, Bourgeois, Cassatt, Delauney, Frankenthaler, Hepworth, Hesse, Gentileschi, Kahlo, Kaufman, Krasner, Kusama, Martin, Mohamedi, Morisot, Murray, Neel, Neshat, Nevelson, O’Keefe, Oppenheim, Piper, Riley, Ringgold, Rockburne, Smith, Spero, and Walker.
What’s the last drawing you did?
A yellow bumwad sketch five minutes ago with a carmine red Ticonderoga Erasable pencil.
What does this award mean to you?
Honor. Joy. Vegas.