Michael Sorkin Salutes Lebbeus Woods, Marshall Berman at National Design Awards

Michael Sorkin Salutes Lebbeus Woods, Marshall Berman at National Design Awards

In AN‘s recent article on the winners of this year’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards, we mentioned that Michael Sorkin accepted his award for “Design Mind” with a powerful tribute—as only he can—to his late friends and intellectual mentors, Lebbeus Woods and Marshall Berman. Sorkin, like the other awardees, was only allowed a 2 minute acceptance speech, which he has shared with AN. Read the statement in full below.

I’d like to thank Harvey Weinstein, Sue Mengers, our truly incredible cast and crew…..oops.

A paraphrased platitude: knowledge is everywhere and we meld productively with the minds of giants, dwarves, and those of average size. Among those to whom I am indebted:

Kallikrates and Iktinos.


My mother, for giving me a copy of Lewis Mumford when I was fourteen.

My father, for agreeing with my mother to buy that modernist house with no basement.

My long-suffering, severely underpaid, amazingly supportive collaborators.

Michael De Klerk.

Alvar Aalto.

Bruce Goff, the more so for putting up with all that bullshit from Frank Lloyd Wright.

Lawrence Sterne for the funniest book ever written.

Guarino Guarini.

James Wines, for nominating me 28 times for this.

Michelle Obama, for the fabulous lunch.

My dear wife Joan, for her loving dissatisfaction, uncompromising mind and spirit, and inspirational good looks.

But, I’d like to dedicate this award to two authentic mental titans we’ve lost this year, comrades in arms, dear friends, great teachers, more deserving than I of this tribute: Lebbeus Woods and Marshall Berman.

Leb taught me the true reality of genius, creative fearlessness, the leagues-long distance form can go, and the way in which ideas of the deepest profundity can live in architecture. He inspired me with design’s power of resistance to constraint and with an ever unfolding and questioning dream of what building might be in both mind and place.

Marshall taught me about the bottomless meaning that inhabits the city, the infinitely nuanced relations of thought and passion, the way in which politics can be a conduit for kindness and joy, and the pleasure and the contiguity of the astonishing urban poetries to be found from Aristotle’s agora to hip-hop’s Bronx.

My great gratitude to the Cooper Hewitt and the NDA jury for conducing the sweetness and duty of thinking about what it means to have been alive among such minds as these.