Marshall Berman’s Family Gifts Collection to Spitzer School

The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture has been given an extraordinary gift: the collection of books and archives belonging to Professor Marshall Berman (1940-2013) that he used to prepare to teach his courses at City College, principally at the Spitzer School. The collection will be housed in the CCNY Architecture Library.

Berman, a distinguished professor of political science in CCNY’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and the Graduate Center, CUNY, taught political theory and urban studies. A Marxist humanist philosopher, and writer, Berman also taught at Spitzer where his colleague and friend Michael Sorkin was then a distinguished professor of architecture and director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design. The collection’s dedicated space will be adjacent to the new Michael Sorkin Reading Room. A celebration and official announcement will take place at the opening of the Michael Sorkin Reading Room in December.

Born and raised in the Bronx, Berman joined the CCNY faculty in 1967 after he completed his PhD at Harvard University. He wrote frequently for publications, like the New York Times Book Review, The Nation, and Dissent.

Berman’s best-known book, All That’s Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity, was a bible to many academics, especially in architecture. It was in the introduction to this book that he coined the triad now part of academic lexicon: Modernity, modernization and modernism. He taught until his death in 2013 at age 72.

While going through Berman’s famously copious belongings, his wife Shellie Sclan-Berman came across papers pertaining to his courses, such as City and Self.

“I love City College, and the Spitzer School. Marshall was so happy there,” said Sclan-Berman. She contacted Spitzer Dean Marta Gutman about the find, and offered the papers to the school.

“Shellie offered Spitzer xeroxed articles, course syllabi, student papers, books for teaching, which are fantastic because they are annotated by Marshall. They are collector’s items,” said Gutman.

Gutman sent a student research assistant, Aidan Quigley M Arch ’24, to assist Sclan-Berman with the donation. Quigley began digging through the trove, organizing, and assessing. He’s also creating a Berman bibliography.

It’s imperative to Sclan-Berman that researchers have access to documents to engage with and continue Berman’s work.

According to Nilda Sanchez-Rodriguez, chief architecture librarian and associate professor, the collection is to be cataloged and digitized. “We are so excited to get his collection and get visitors in to view his work,” she said.