A professor at City College of New York who made a name in Spain as editor of Variations on a Theme Park, Michael Sorkin presents in this third anthology of his – after Exquisite Corpse (1991) and Some Assembly Required (2001) – 76 essays that take off before the start of the ‘Bush era’. Written for different publications, they cover a wide range of themes.
If in the previous compilations the focus is New York City, here Sorkin leaps from local (with proposals for alternative locations of an Olympic stadium for 2016) to the global (with the study of the great urban revolution of emerging countries and their challenges in the Gulf, China or Brazil), addressing themes going from the architectural ‘star system’ (with acid critiques on figures like Philip Johnson, Rem Koolhaas and his Prada stores or Herbert Muschamp, architectural critic of The New York Times) to policies of privatization of public space (calling Manhattan the world’s largest gated community and denouncing it as a crisis of public domain).
Perhaps the guiding thread is the clash between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, which marks the debate on Mayor Bloomberg’s administration (conceived as a synthesis of both postures under the heading ‘Building like Moses with Jacobs in mind’). Sorkin is clearly with Jacobs and proclaims his debt to her from the foreword to the personal dedacologue at the end, where he advocates a green city with zero emissions, compact but open, complex and multicentered, equitable and fair.