Michael Sorkin is My Doppelganger
If I could have convinced myself to do the math, I might have become an architect and, if I had, I would now be Michael Sorkin.
I mean, he does exactly what I find myself doing—telling NYU how to better expand its campus and badgering Barry Diller to make his island part of Pier 40.
As Michael Sorkin tells it, “We self initiate projects to address issues we think are important and to offer solutions that exceed business as usual. Nobody pays for the projects and we are supported by whatever philanthropy we can find and, unfortunately, this is often me.”
Oh boy, is that close to home. But what I really envy is Michael’s ability to do renderings which illustrate solutions, as he does for Diller Island in this article below.
I mean, when you get down to it, Diller Island is a 2.5-acre concrete island resting on enormous concrete lily pads which would be used as a performance space (it is no good in the winter and no good in the rain).
It should be a barged performance stage floated up to the playing field on Pier 40 where spectators can watch the performances. The stage could be floated to other boroughs and even to Florida in the winter. (It is much cheaper to build a stage on a barge than an island on 200-foot stilts.)
— George Capsis
By Michael Sorkin
Terreform is a nonprofit center for urban research and advocacy, founded in 2005. We have long taken an interest in the fate of Pier 40 (our studio is a few blocks away) and the development of the Hudson River waterfront. In 2016, we did an analysis and design in response to the impending air rights transfer across West Street and the $100 million in funding it was to bring for vital repairs to the pier. (The full report, which sought to attenuate and better contextualize the huge condo project proposed to replace the St. John’s Building, can be downloaded from our website: terreform.info.) In 2012, we offered a scheme for the relocation of a portion of the NYU expansion to the site. Back in 1997, we reconfigured the pier as part of a larger riposte to the Westway replacement design. And so it goes!
For some time, we’ve also been closely observing the ongoing contretemps over Barry Diller’s proposal to fund and build a new entertainment pier on the remains of the largely vanished Pier 55, at a projected cost of $250 million. While we admire the work of Thomas Heatherwick (the scheme’s imaginative designer), have no issue with generous philanthropy, and ardently wish to see the Hudson River Park become ever more splendid and
capacious, we wonder about the logic of this particular investment in the context of a public space obliged to fend for itself financially. More specifically, we wonder whether this enormous expenditure—and the program it will support—might be directed to a location where it is far more urgently needed and appropriately housed: Pier 40.
Michael Sorkin is President of Terreform, Principal of the Michael Sorkin Studio (a global design practice focusing on urbanism and green architecture), Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at CCNY, and architecture critic for The Nation.