Twenty Minutes in Manhattan
Distributed for Reaktion Books
The walk from my apartment in Greenwich Village to my studio in Tribeca takes about twenty minutes, depending upon the route and whether I stop for a coffee and the Times. Invariably, though, it begins with a trip down the stairs.
And so sets out architecture critic Michael Sorkin on his daily walk from his home in a Manhattan old-law-style tenement building. Sorkin has followed the same path for over fifteen years, a route that has allowed him to observe the startling transformations in New York during this period of great change. Twenty Minutes in Manhattan is his personal, anecdotal account of his casual encounters with the physical space and social dimensions of this unparalleled city.
From the social gathering place of the city stoop to Washington Square Park, Sorkin’s walk takes the reader on a wry, humorous journey past local characters, neighborhood stores and bodegas, landmark buildings, and overlooked streets. His perambulations offer him—and the reader—opportunities to not only engage with his surroundings but to consider a wide range of issues that fascinate Sorkin as an architect, urbanist, and New Yorker. Whether he is despairing at street garbage or marveling at elevator etiquette, Twenty Minutes in Manhattan offers a testing ground for his ideas of how the city can be newly imagined and designed, addressing such issues as the crisis of the environment, free expression and public space, historic preservation, and the future of the neighborhood as a concept.
Inspired by Sorkin’s close, attentive relationship to his beloved city, Twenty Minutes in Manhattan is in the end a valentine to the idea of the city that ultimately offers a practical set of solutions that are relevant to not only the preservation and improvement of New York but to urban environments everywhere.
"This walk through the city shows Michael Sorkin at his witty and knowledgeable best. From the stairs of his small apartment house to the pyramids of Chichen Itza, from Local Law 45 to the motto of the Hanseatic League, Sorkin takes us on a journey through eras and worlds in the space of just 15 blocks. Better to spend 20 minutes with him than 24 hours with a standard tourist guide!"
"I am glad Sorkin doesn't take the subway: this is the most brilliant epitome of Manhattan ever written." – Mike Davis
"Not since the great Jane Jacobs has there been a book this good about the day-to-day life of New York. Sorkin writes like an American Montaigne, riffing freely off his personal experience (sometimes happy, sometimes frustrating) to arrive at general insights about New York and about cities everywhere."
"Sorkin comes from a neighborhood of great urbanists—Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, Grace Paley—and he belongs in their company. A short walk with him through the West Village turns into an adventure. He is one of the smartest and most original people writing about New York and about city life today."
"In his delightful book, Michael Sorkin writes about New York from a flaneur’s perspective. Focusing on a 20-minute walk from his apartment to his studio, the author – one of architecture’s most consistent and consistently interesting critical voices – meanders through architecture, urbanism, sociology, politics and history . . . Quirky, erudite and occasionally frustrating in its movement between the personal, the political and the physical, every city should have its Michael Sorkin."– Financial Times
"The trove of thumbnail sketches and obscure facts is augmented with fascinating ruminations about the socio-political ins and outs of the business of construction and urban renewal in New York City, the intricate socioeconomic consequences that result, and the ethical ramifications of these undertakings."– James Sclavunos, Times (UK)
"If you want an introduction to what has been said and thought about the city around the world, and also what has been built and unbuilt as a result of all this theorising, this is probably as good a guide as can be had. Follow Sorkin on his walk, and you will certainly be better informed and perhaps a bit wiser as well."– Joseph Rykwert, Architects’ Journal
"No one writes better about architecture and urbanism in the United States than Sorkin. He is a tireless campaigner against cliché . . . perhaps his most personal book to date."– Blueprint
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