Michael Sorkin was a totally unique figure. No one else in the architectural community represents the ideas from the left with the depth and consistency that he did and still does. He will deservedly get praise for his stellar writing for the Village Voice and other publications, his advocacy for just and equitable urban spaces, the practical imagination shown in his Local Codes, his commitment — in both projects and the formation of Terreform — to a sustainable planet, his teaching to and mentorship of a younger generation of green urban designers. But what might be missed in all of this is his dogged, unflagging, commitment to a socialist vision for architecture, urbanism and society. From the 80’s to the present, many on the left shifted their views from advocating socialism, utopianism and direct critiques of capital to disparaging activism and suggesting working with neoliberalism from the inside. Through those shifts, Sorkin foregrounded and articulated an anti-capitalist stance from beginning to end. While others have heeded the call of cultural fashions, Sorkin has been timely, perhaps now more than ever, for never wavering from pointing to societies’ fundamental faults. Given his passion and positions, it is even more remarkable that he has earned the respect and admiration from critics, historians, sociologists, and practitioners who do not share his politics. He earned admiration because of his clarity, and even humor, about architecture’s failures and its unrealized potential.
All architects will mourn Michael Sorkin, but those of us on the left must recognize the particular severity of our loss. The Architecture Lobby is mourning.