Now reading

Book Review of "All Over the Map: Writing on Buildings a...

Book Review of "All Over the Map: Writing on Buildings and Cities" by Michael Sorkin

Michael Sorkin is opinionated, to the point, and passionate about protecting architecture from the politics that too often smother innovation. A well-known architectural critic, an author of several hundred articles, professor, and principal of the Michael Sorkin Studio, Sorkin lives, eats — “architectural flesh has always proved tasty to me,” and breathes architecture and urban

Head article image

Michael Sorkin is opinionated, to the point, and passionate about protecting architecture from the politics that too often smother innovation. A well-known architectural critic, an author of several hundred articles, professor, and principal of the Michael Sorkin Studio, Sorkin lives, eats — “architectural flesh has always proved tasty to me,” and breathes architecture and urban design.

In his most recent book "All Over the Map: Writing on Buildings and Cities," Sorkin picks up where his last book left off, "Some Assembly Required," in late 2001. The chapters are organized chronologically, and predominately take the form of medium-sized essays. The majority of essays are shaped by human disasters, which Sorkin comments “have caused a special crisis for spatial liberation.”

The main human disaster "All Over the Map" covers is 9/11. Throughout the book, Sorkin discusses the politics and controversies surrounding Ground Zero’s design process. He challenges the limitations of the design proposals, and how little room is allowed for community and survivor participation in the decision-making process.

Remains of the World Trade Center Friday, Sept. 14, 2001 in New York City. Photo by Paul Morse, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

Perhaps Sorkin’s most inspirational quality is that he is not afraid to speak his mind, and continually fights for individuals’ right to speak theirs and choose what is best for their country. While attending the “Listening to the City” meeting at the Javits Center in New York City, concerning the proposed memorial and development of Ground Zero, Sorkin challenged the proctor’s sentiment that the meeting was democratic because, “in democracy, the people have the chance to speak!” He corrected her, shouting: “Buuulllllsshhiiiit! Democracy means the people have the power to choose!”

This justifiable outburst, and others, are found throughout the pages of "All Over the Map," as Sorkin fights for everyone’s right to architecture. Other chapters include an essay on people who live in urban glass houses, how urbanism is politics, a sixty-two point instruction on how to enter a building, a letter to President Obama, and a twelve-point recommendation or manifesto for better cities.

"All Over the Map" is definitely a creative and worthwhile read on buildings and cities.

Does your city allow citizens to make civic decisions? How is participatory planning functioning in your city - or is it not? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.

The Global Grid gave away four free copies of this book to four lucky people. Be sure to never miss one of our reviews. Follow #TheGlobalGridReads for our reviews and join our Goodreads group for opportunities to win free books in the future.

Credits: Photos by Alex Riemondy and U.S. National Archives. Updated December 5, 2017.

By purchasing "All Over the Map" using the links on this page, you'll be supporting The Global Grid. A small portion of the sales come back to us to support our work and book reviews like this.

Intern photo

Alex Riemondy is a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Environmental Studies, and a Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning. Her interests in urban planning first stemmed from a cross-country ...

  • Ryan H.

    Sorkin is great. Read Variations on a Theme Park for a class at Berkeley and really enjoyed it. I’ll have to pick up a copy of this.

  • Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for the reply. Sorkin definitely makes for a great read. I will have to check out Variations on a Theme Park too!

    Happy Reading
    -Alex

Tuesdays, in your inbox.

Tuesdays, in your inbox.

Weekly local urbanist news and jobs. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!