Two Hundred Fifty Things an Architect Should Know

Written by Michael Sorkin,
Published in: Michael Sorkin, What Goes Up, London: Verso, 2018. 

  1. The feel of cool marble under bare feet.
  2. How to live in a small room with five strangers for six months.
  3. With the same strangers in a lifeboat for one week.
  4. The modulus of rupture.
  5. The distance a shout carries in the city.
  6. The distance of a whisper.
  7. Everything possible about Hatshepsut’s temple (try not to see it as ‘modernist’ avant la lettre).
  8. The number of people with rent subsidies in New York City.
  9. In your town (include the rich).
  10. The flowering season for azaleas.
  11. The insulating properties of glass.
  12. The history of its production and use.
  13. And of its meaning.
  14. How to lay bricks.
  15. What Victor Hugo really meant by ‘this will kill that.’
  16. The rate at which the seas are rising.
  17. Building information modeling (BIM).
  18. How to unclog a Rapidograph.
  19. The Gini coefficient.
  20. A comfortable tread-to-riser ratio for a six-year-old.
  21. In a wheelchair.
  22. The energy embodied in aluminum.
  23. How to turn a corner.
  24. How to design a corner.
  25. How to sit in a corner.
  26. How Antoni Gaudí modeled the Sagrada Família and calculated its structure.
  27. The proportioning system for the Villa Rotonda.
  28. The rate at which that carpet you specified off-gasses.
  29. The relevant sections of the Code of Hammurabi.
  30. The migratory patterns of warblers and other seasonal travellers.
  31. The basics of mud construction.
  32. The direction of prevailing winds.
  33. Hydrology is destiny.
  34. Jane Jacobs in and out.
  35. Something about feng shui.
  36. Something about Vastu Shilpa.
  37. Elementary ergonomics.
  38. The color wheel.
  39. What the client wants.
  40. What the client thinks it wants.
  41. What the client needs.
  42. What the client can afford.
  43. What the planet can afford.
  44. The theoretical bases for modernity and a great deal about its factions and inflections.
  45. What post-Fordism means for the mode of production of building.
  46. Another language.
  47. What the brick really wants.
  48. The difference between Winchester Cathedral and a bicycle shed.
  49. What went wrong in Fatehpur Sikri.
  50. What went wrong in Pruitt-Igoe.
  51. What went wrong with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
  52. Where the CCTV cameras are.
  53. Why Mies really left Germany.
  54. How people lived in Çatal Hüyük.
  55. The structural properties of tufa.
  56. How to calculate the dimensions of brise-soleil.
  57. The kilowatt costs of photovoltaic cells.
  58. Vitruvius.
  59. Walter Benjamin.
  60. Marshall Berman.
  61. The secrets of the success of Robert Moses.
  62. How the dome on the Duomo in Florence was built.
  63. The reciprocal influences of Chinese and Japanese building.
  64. The cycle of the Ise Shrine.
  65. Entasis.
  66. The history of Soweto.
  67. What it’s like to walk down the Ramblas.
  68. Back-up.
  69. The proper proportions of a gin martini.
  70. Shear and moment.
  71. Shakespeare, et cetera.
  72. How the crow flies.
  73. The difference between a ghetto and a neighborhood.
  74. How the pyramids were built.
  75. Why.
  76. The pleasures of the suburbs.
  77. The horrors.
  78. The quality of light passing through ice.
  79. The meaninglessness of borders.
  80. The reasons for their tenacity.
  81. The creativity of the ecotone.
  82. The need for freaks.
  83. Accidents must happen.
  84. It is possible to begin designing anywhere.
  85. The smell of concrete after rain.
  86. The angle of the sun at the equinox.
  87. How to ride a bicycle.
  88. The depth of the aquifer beneath you.
  89. The slope of a handicapped ramp.
  90. The wages of construction workers.
  91. Perspective by hand.
  92. Sentence structure.
  93. The pleasure of a spritz at sunset at a table by the Grand Canal.
  94. The thrill of the ride.
  95. Where materials come from.
  96. How to get lost.
  97. The pattern of artificial light at night, seen from space.
  98. What human differences are defensible in practice.
  99. Creation is a patient search.
  100. The debate between Otto Wagner and Camillo Sitte.
  101. …..

    To read the rest of the list please visit the Reading Design website.