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Michael Sorkin: Pro Eutopia (February 17, 2010)01:30:25

Eric Owen Moss introduces Michael Sorkin, stressing the concepts of asymmetry and freedom and the political organization of urbanism.

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.

Michael Sorkin presents several urban design projects that demonstrate what he calls “a fuzzy urban logic.” In his drawings, every visual or color difference represents a difference in the drawing process as well as the urban makeup. The ratios of built space to green space to water space are all crucial. For Sorkin, urbanism is body based, self-sufficient, local, complex, equitable, singular, and green. For Sorkin, successful urbanism involves the ability to get lost, stating that “a little confusion is good.”

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.

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