Provocative critic and 2019 AIA Collaborative Achievement Award–winning architect Michael Sorkin, who was considered "an abiding conscience to the profession," has died of complications from contracting COVID-19. He was 71.
"I am heartbroken," wrote New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman on Twitter. "This is a great loss. 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."
Born in 1948 in Washington, D.C., Sorkin graduated from the University of Chicago in 1969 and went on to complete his M.Arch. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974. He also holds a Master's degree in English from Columbia University.
Longtime architecture critic for The Nation, Sorkin was a prolific writer on the subject of architecture and the city, and was the author and editor of numerous published works, including 20 books. In the 1980s, he famously served as the architecture critic for The Village Voice. Sorkin was also the founding principal of New York–based Michael SorkinStudio, which focuses on urban planning, urban design, and sustainable urbanism. Sorkin's project highlights include master plans for the Brooklyn waterfront and Queens Plaza in New York, as well as a master plan for East Jerusalem in Palestine. In 2005, Sorkin founded the spin-off nonprofit research and advocacy group Terreform.
Sorkin devoted much of his career to architectural education, serving as professor of urbanism and director of the Institute of Urbanism of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, from 1993 to 2000, and then as distinguished professor of architecture and director of the graduate program in urban design at the Spitzer School of Architecture at The City College of New York until his death. He also served as a guest lecturer and critic at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, the Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the Aarhus School of Architecture in Aarhus, Denmark, and the London Consortium.
Sorkin's work has been widely celebrated, and in 2010, he was awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters prize in architecture. In 2019, Sorkin received the AIA Collaborative Achievement Award, which recognizes "the excellence that results when architects work with those from outside the profession to improve the spaces where people live and work," according to the Institute. In an interview with ARCHITECT, Sorkin reported that he hoped his legacy would be for encouraging "more kindness, less evil."
"The world lost a brilliant consciousness when Michael Sorkin died," wrote AIA CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA, on Twitter. "Architect, planner, urbanist, teacher, dreamer, Sorkin’s critiques cut to the core with trenchant, linguistic finesse. Few in architecture matched his mind."
This article has been updated since its original publication.