“Michael + Marshall” Event Celebrates Love of Architecture, Libraries, and Urbanism

The Spitzer School hosted “Michael & Marshall: Celebrating Friendship, Life & Scholarship” on Dec. 1 to celebrate the lives of CCNY Distinguished Professor of Architecture Michael Sorkin and CCNY Distinguished Professor of Political Science Marshall Berman. The evening was a reason to rejoice and reflect on the two larger-than-life personalities as writers, scholars, and men dedicated to the cause of public education. The event showcased the opening of the Sorkin Reading Room and the generous donation of Berman’s archives, by his wife Shellie Sclan-Berman, which are located in the adjacent CCNY Architecture Library. Both men passed away unexpectedly, Berman in 2013 of a heart attack and Sorkin in 2020.

A crowd filled the reception as jazz played, hors d’oeuvres and wine were consumed, and speeches were made by CCNY President Vince Boudreau, CCNY Provost Tony Liss, Spitzer School Dean Marta Gutman, Sorkin’s wife, Joan Copjec, and Sclan-Berman.

“Many  people worked hard, but I need to single out for special thanks three incredible women, Joan Copjec and Shellie Sclan for their extraordinary gifts to the architecture library, and Elisabetta Terragni for her beautiful design of the new reading room,” said Gutman.

“The event was thrilling. Gathering and building a future positively both rooted in and swimming in the treasures of the past, keeping alive the spirits, visions, and the concrete creations of Marshall and Michael,” said Sclan-Berman.

A Marxist humanist philosopher, and writer, Berman was known for the book All That’s Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity and his inspired teaching of political science and urban studies at the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, the Graduate School, CUNY, and the Spitzer School. The donated archives include papers he used to prepare to teach his courses. He continued to teach until his death at age 72.

A writer, activist, architecture critic, urbanist and principal of Michael Sorkin Studio, Sorkin joined the Spitzer School as a Professor of Architecture and Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design in 2000 and built a competitive program with top academics specializing in urban issues. He founded the annual Mumford Lecture, inviting distinguished urbanists to speak publicly about cities. In 2008, Sorkin was made a Distinguished Professor.

In 2013, Berman gave the Mumford lecture (video). The lecture was published in Adventures in Modernism: Thinking with Marshall Berman with essays about Berman by scholars, including Gutman.

Gutman said of the event, “Hundreds of people came to celebrate Michael Sorkin and Marshall Berman, testimony to the extended communities that make Spitzer all that it is. I’m a historian, and it pleases me no end that Spitzer is building its library and archives, the foundation on which every great architecture school sits.”

The night served as the launch of a fundraising campaign by Gutman to endow the Michael Sorkin Visiting Distinguished Lecturer at the Spitzer School. The endowment is in keeping with Sorkin’s vision of CCNY and cities and will allow for a distinguished senior designer or scholar, with expertise in urbanism, to spend a semester at the Spitzer School and teach an advanced seminar or studio. The intent is to encourage conversation about cities in the past, present, and/or future and the social purposes of architecture. The visitor will also deliver the annual Mumford Lecture.

The lively event also marked the 51st anniversaries of the Landscape Architecture and Urban Design programs.