Michael Sorkin begins with a comparison of Woodstock and Auschwitz, in terms of organizing people, and the role of utopian ideals both situations. He articulates his fear of any utopianism that ends in homogeneity, New Urbanism, McMansions, and Humvees. Sorkin argues that his work is based on human locomotion defining urban scale. This is how heights and edges are defined. Sorkin stresses that a city should not go on forever. He presents a project in Laos that integrated agriculture with city housing adjacent to industry to allow a mixture of uses. He describes the process of signifying green intentions with forms and orienting points created through the integration of windmills and other elements. Sorkin endeavors to harmonize with a balance of all of the resources and necessities of life on a single site. He additionally includes his “Eight Neutralities” of every design: energy, economy, waste, food, water, air, temperature, and movement. Sorkin presents a building design based on a jellyfish, adding that sometimes architecture needs no explanation. He presents a project in China in which all apartments were designed to face south to increase their value. He explains a process of setting up a rigid grid and then “making it fuzzy” by warping circulatory routes and creating unique organizational experiences. He presents a project in Brooklyn, which focused on the lack of centers and how to generate new forms and densities. The project proposal started with the simple notion to plant a tree at the center of several intersections. This would serve to slow traffic, create a pedestrian orientation and shift the movement and use of the space.
Video Archive | Michael Sorkin (3)
Sorkin agues that the form of the city should be responsive to the site, climate and culture, and only where one of those elements is lacking should design be introduced. He describes two utopian master plan projects, Weed Arizona, a new city located in a decommissioned military base, and Neurasia, a city in an undetermined location in Asia. Both of these stress social space and neighborhoods. Sorkin describes several urban design projects he has worked on, including senior housing of the future, projects for Jerusalem and Beirut, and alterations to the University of Chicago campus. Sorkin’s master plans employ, in places, deliberate vagueness to suggest a range of possibilities. In all the projects, Sorkin stresses ecological and climactic considerations. Sorkin describes several redevelopment projects for areas around New York City. In Far Rockaway, he proposes a pedestrian oriented low rise beach development. In Brooklyn he proposes inserting trees in several intersections and using those as the focus for variable density housing. For the Westside Waterfront Park, Sorkin proposes a water-taxi channel, and establishing a second promenade beyond the water-taxi lanes. Sorkin lays out several proposals for the World Trade Center Site. His first proposals consist of converting the entire site into parkland, or other methods of addressing the entire site with one building. Once it became clear that the building footprints had become sacred, he proposed towers that deviate from typical office tower typology.
Sorkin begins by describing the thirty minute walk from his apartment in New York to his office studio. This journey leads to a critique of the human and built components that both bind and divide the city, as well as current processes which drive cities increasingly toward the virtual. Walter Hudson, the world’s fattest human, and paradigmatic citizen of the post-electronic city, represents a new revolutionary in this disembodying system. The radical re-situating of the body through this process threatens our subjectivity, and the concurrent mediation degrades democracy by inhibiting free association.