Michael Sorkin: Loss In the Time of Virus

Posted · Add Comment
Lance Jay Brown, President, CSU

March 26, 2020 was a particularly sad day in another increasingly sad week. Perhaps you saw the news that Michael Sorkin succumbed to the coronavirus. His passing is both premature and tragic and the prospect of his absence saddens beyond measure: so vital, so smart…so outrageously witty!  He will be missed. 

Michael Sorkin was an insightful critic, poetic author, provocative designer, acerbic wit, global educator, and boundary breaker. 

Above all, he was a brilliant and wonderful urbanist, and a supporter of all that we at the CSU consider to be our mission. As the CSU mourns Michael’s passing we also want to recognize his achievements and underscore his legacy left in the many articles and books he has written, the many videos of him speaking, the many colleagues he has influenced, the many students he has educated.

The outpouring of eulogies, reflections, anecdotes and obituaries is a testament to his broad reach and his superb value as a person and a professional. To speak of him in the past tense seems most unnatural.

On a personal note, I have known Michael Sorkin for fifty years. We haven’t always agreed on everything but he came to visit at my bedside in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village and nourished me when I was deathly ill. I loved him and I will miss him.

The memorial gathering that traditionally serves to convene a grieving community and begin the healing process is denied by the rules of pandemic containment. While I know we will find other ways to celebrate it remains ironic that a man whose life was devoted to discussing, dissecting, celebrating, creating, critiquing, teaching, and writing about how people gather, about the role played by architecture and urban design as foundational to our civilization will leave us without the opportunity, for now,  to gather together  for him.

P.S. As we plan to distribute this message we learn of the passing of Michael McKinnell, partner in the design of the iconic Boston City Hall, gentle and sweet man, brilliant architect, and my thesis professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. We mourn another loss, we send our deep condolences to both of their families, we hope this season ends soon we pray that you stay inside.